SF considers non-toxic nail salon ordinance

October 4, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
With nearly 200 nail salons in San Francisco, only a handful is considered non-toxic, but that could change. One supervisor is pushing for healthier salons for employees and their customers.

Nova Nail Salon on Mission Street uses all natural, non-toxic products. Owner Kim Pham says she decided to go toxic-free because the products she was using at the time were making her sick.

"Three years ago I was sick and allergic and I like to be healthy," says Pham.

San Francisco Supervisor David Chiu says chemicals used in nail polish and removers are a public health hazard. They can cause cancer, dizziness, nausea, headaches and are considered harmful to pregnant women. Monday he introduced an ordinance urging salons to get rid of them.

"The ordinance is to address the public health issues related to the toxic trio which are three chemicals that are commonly found in many nail polishes: toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate," says Chiu.

The ordinance would not force salons to switch to non-toxic products, but rather create a nail salon recognition program that would acknowledge those salons that were chemical free.

The employees at New Nails on Chestnut Street say they have to open doors, use fans, even wear masks to get away from the fumes -- something that is not overlooked by customers.

"At the other salons when they are sitting there with masks on while they are doing your nails, you've got to wonder how healthy it is for them as well as for clients," says customer Lynn Belanger.

Salon owners say chemical-free polish and removers are more expensive. Polish remover can run four to five times more than the toxic brands. Polish goes for about 30 percent higher. Regardless, Pham says it's worth it and customers say they're willing to pay more.

"I would definitely pay more. You know health is measured in more than just money," says customer Theresa Parilo.

The ordinance will come before the full board for a vote next Tuesday.


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