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The California State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology (BBC) is responsible for ensuring consumer health and safety and overseeing the licensure, testing, and classroom curriculum for nail technicians and the licensure of businesses. BBC periodically sends notifications to nail salons regarding changes in BBC policies and procedures and inspects nail salons for regulatory violations.

Ventilation technologies and standards can impact air quality inside nail salons.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that about half of workplace indoor air quality complaints are due to the lack of adequate ventilation.26 Building codes provide rules on structural and mechanical aspects of buildings, including ventilation. Building codes are generally enforced at the local level by county or city building department officials. A building or business owner is responsible for complying with the standard in effect at the time of construction or renovations. When a nail salon moves into a retail space, a ventilation inspection is rarely performed. Although Cal/OSHA requires employers to regularly inspect and maintain mechanical ventilation systems, few small businesses are aware of this requirement, and many building owners or managers do not provide this service.

Vapors and dusts of toxic substances are generated close to the breathing zone of nail salon workers and customers. Ventilation standards that are established in building codes for retail or office spaces do not address the unique conditions of workers in nail salons who work long hours and are exposed to multiple chemicals.27

Both the BBC and Cal/OSHA mandate the same ventilation standard that is required in offices,


schools and other non-industrial spaces. These are usually insufficient to keep toxic substances at “safe” concentrations. The BBC’s inspectors are neither trained nor equipped to inspect or evaluate ventilation. Quantitative measurements of ventilation can be difficult and time-consuming and Cal/OSHA officers rarely perform them. Some qualitative techniques, such as checking that the fan runs continuously or checking maintenance records, can provide moderately useful evaluations.

Other occupational health issues impact the nail salon community.

Nail salon workers’ occupational illnesses generally are not tracked or monitored. Doctors may not recognize that certain symptoms or illnesses are related to occupational hazards such as exposure to harmful chemicals.

Additionally, many nail salon workers do not have access to health care. Almost 21% of Californians, or approximately 6.6 million people, are without health insurance. Eighteen million Californians (56.7% of the population) receive health care through their employer-based health insurance.28 Workers at private sector businesses of all sizes are experiencing an increased likelihood of being uninsured, although it is most pronounced in businesses with fewer than ten employees.


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