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Boston Vietnamese Healthy Nail Salon Initiative

Project Details

Year: 2005
Location: Dorchester and Boston
Project Manager: New Ecology, Inc. (NEI)- Project Leader, Madeline Fraser Cook
Partners: Partners: Vietnamese American Initiative for Development (Viet-AID) and Pioneer Valley Project.


The nail salon industry is dominated by Vietnamese technicians and owners. A search for common Vietnamese surnames on the Board of Cosmetology's list of licensed manicurists reveals roughly 4000 Vietnamese manicurists in the Greater Boston area. NEI estimates manicurists in the Boston area alone make up 26 percent of the Vietnamese labor force.

Nail technicians are exposed to numerous low-level exposures to chemicals on a daily basis. Many of the products such as nail polish, polish remover and glue for artificial nails contain volatile solvents that can impair reproductive systems. Other chemicals can cause respiratory and skin irritation. Little is known about the long-term health effects of this work environment, especially on women of child-bearing age. Add to this the lack of translated regulations and basic chemical and safety information in foreign languages and our immigrant populations become particularly vulnerable.

NEI has worked to build a process for working with technical experts, salon technicians, owners and suppliers to promote toxics use reduction in Vietnamese-owned nail salons in Dorchester and the Greater Boston area. NEI has identified currently available "safer" nail products and has worked with chemists at UMASS Lowell to evaluate them. In addition, they have identified nail salon owners to evaluate the cost and performance.

Project Deliverables

A report on pilot findings, lessons learned, and opportunities to further promote safer nail products. A brochure listing product vendors, toxicity/safety information, and price comparisons for distribution through the local partners (Viet-AID, PVP).

This page updated Thursday July 19 2018
More Info

Read the project's final report.