Heard Around Town

Report: Nail salon technicians have higher rate of reproductive health issues

The study comes as proposed legislation would create protections for these workers, typically Asian and Latin American immigrants already subject to poor working conditions.

A salon technician gives a pedicure to a client at Mt. Everest Nail Salon in Ridgewood, Queens, New York, on May 11, 2022.

A salon technician gives a pedicure to a client at Mt. Everest Nail Salon in Ridgewood, Queens, New York, on May 11, 2022. ANDREA RENAULT/AFP via Getty Images

New York’s nail salon technicians, a group predominantly composed of Asian and Latin American immigrant women, are more likely to experience reproductive health issues compared to the general population, according to a new report from the New York Health Nails Salons Coalition. 

A bevy of nail salon workers, elected officials and reproductive health advocates will assemble outside City Hall Tuesday morning to underscore the report’s findings and urge the state to pass legislation aimed at creating standards for an industry long plagued with poor working conditions, wage theft and health risks. The Nail Salon Minimum Standards Council Act, which is sponsored by Sen.  Jessica Ramos and Assembly Member Harry Bronson, would create an industry council composed of workers, employers, and government representatives to recommend new labor standards for nail salons in New York. 

“Salon owners say the only way to stay in business, among intense cost-cutting competition, is to take shortcuts which hurts their employees,” Bronson said in a statement. “This is not only shortchanging the economy in communities throughout the state, but the health and prosperity of future generations. It's time to change things.”

While the nail salon industry is booming across the state, the report details the dark underbelly of the sector – one rife with illegal working conditions. Still, health risks linked to the chemicals in products like glues, removers, and polishes are one of the biggest concerns amid the workforce. Of the 312 women nail techs in New York surveyed for the report, 17% said they have experienced reproductive health issues and 18% said they have had complications during a pregnancy. Among the general U.S. population, those numbers are approximately 11% and 8% respectively. Around 7% of these women also said their child was born with birth defects compared to 2 to 4% of the general population.

“I reject any notion that supporting small businesses has to come at the expense of women's health, especially when we have the policy tools to redesign the nail salon sector in a way that brings all voices to the table," Ramos said in a statement.