Rosenthal Wins Nail Salon Workers the Right to Wear Gloves and Masks

July 8, 2010
New York, NY – New York State Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF, Manhattan) announced that her legislation, A. 7078-A, guaranteeing nail salon workers the right to wear protective gloves and masks passed both the Assembly and the Senate and would soon reach the Governor’s desk.

Nail salon employees have fought for the right of access to these basic safety devices as means of reducing the health risks associated with both acute and long-term exposure to chemicals. This includes toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP), which are found in polishes, glues, solvents and other basic cosmetic products. Prolonged exposure, especially in indoor, poor-circulation environments, has been linked to damage to the reproductive, neurological and respiratory systems as well as cancer. Workers have routinely reported symptoms including birth defects, rashes and headaches.

“While workers in other industries long ago earned the right to basic safeguards, the predominantly immigrant women upon whom nail salons rely have been left behind,” said Assemblymember Rosenthal. “Nail salon employees can be mistreated and I am committed to modernizing and improving their work conditions. Allowing them to wear gloves and masks will protect them against the toxins in their workplace and set the precedent that we cannot ignore their well-being any longer.”

Assemblymember Rosenthal previously introduced companion legislation (A. 7447) that would outlaw the use of toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate (DBP), chemicals that have been deemed the “toxic three” by industry advocates. Although some cosmetics companies have voluntarily discontinued the use of these substances and DBP has been banned in the European Union, lobbyists for the cosmetics industry have continued to fight any attempts to ban these toxins.

“The cosmetics industry is too dependent on chemicals that can jeopardize the health of consumers, and it is time to abandon these unnecessary contaminants," said Rosenthal. "I am proud to have introduced legislation banning the use of the infamous “toxic three” chemicals dibutyl phthalates (DBP), toluene, and formaldehyde in nail polish and nail hardener. We need to work towards creating safer cosmetics for consumers and employees alike.”

"We applaud Assemblymember Rosenthal for championing women's environmental health by working to protect women from toxic chemicals," said Kathy Curtis, LPN, policy director from Clean New York. "This is an important first step in protecting salon workers and customers from toxic chemicals in nail products," Curtis added.

Assemblymember Rosenthal represents the Upper West Side of Manhattan and parts of Clinton/Hell’s Kitchen.