Queen West, in collaboration with the National Network for Environments and Women’s Health (NNEWH) and the Centre for Research Expertise in Occupational Disease (CREOD), works with nail technicians, nail salon owners, researchers and partner agencies to learn about and reduce the negative health impacts of working in nail salons, and advocate for healthy and just work environments for nail technicians.

Nail salon workers in Toronto are typically female immigrants from either China or Vietnam. They work in a profession where they are regularly exposed to chemicals known to cause cancer, respiratory illnesses and reproductive problems1. As immigrants, issues such as gender, language, income, past trauma and immigration status create increased vulnerabilities. Queen West is well positioned to engage in these issues because we have a strong connection to the Chinese community through programs and staff, and can support this area of work through education, advocacy and access to health service needs.

Through funding from Women’s College Hospital, Women’s Xchange, Queen West carried out a project that explored the negative health impacts that nail technicians in Toronto face and strategies to reduce these impacts. With funding from the Ministry of Labour, through the Centre for Research Expertise in Occupational Disease (CREOD), we hired Peer Health Workers to outreach to salons in Toronto and deliver peer-led workshops about protecting your skin at work.

Our ongoing work is supporting nail technicians in forming a Nail Technician Association. This association was identified as a need by the nail technicians as a way to unite, educate and engage workers in this career. The Nail Technician Association plans to take on issues such as: choosing a salon to work at, informing the public about healthy salon standards, protecting your health at work, training opportunities and workplace rights.

With the National Network for Environments and Women’s Health (NNEWH), we are also supporting and participating in the creation of a Healthy Nail Salon Network. This is a collection of nail technicians, salon owners, non-profit and government agencies, and researchers looking to improve the health and safety of nail salons. We have taken our lead from the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, and continue to learn from their work and successes. Please visit our Facebook page: Healthy Nail Salon Network – Facebook page.

Queen West Nail Salon Workers’ Project in 2014 produced two videos which look at the workplace health issues and the employment conditions of these workers:

To see new interviews and reports about the Nail Salon Workers’ Project please go to Publications on the Queen West Website, under “Reports > Wellness & Health Promotion” and “Research Video Links”.

See two-part series in New York Times about salon workers in New York. Here are the links in case you have not seen them.

For questions or more information about the Nail Salon Project, please call (416) 703-8482 ext. 233.

1Quach, Thu, Julia Varshavsky, Julie Von Behren, Erika Garcia, My Tong, Tuan Nguyen, Alisha Tran, Robert Gunier, and Peggy Reynolds. “Reducing Chemical Exposures in Nail Salons through Owner and Worker Trainings: An Exploratory Intervention Study.” American Journal of Industrial Medicine 56.7 (2013): 806-17. Print.

Rochon Ford, Anne. “Overexposed, Underinformed: Nail Salon Workers and Hazards to Their Health / A Literature Review”. National Network on Environments and Women’s Health. Print.