The Norwood Health Department is partnering with five other towns as the Norfolk County 7 Public Health Coalition in its newest project, “Greening Nail Salons for Employees and Communities.”
The goal is to raise awareness of the types of toxic chemicals nail salon employees and customers are exposed to on a daily basis. Dedham, Milton, Needham, Canton, and Westwood are also participating in the project.
“This is not any sort of enforcement project but to show them that there might be alternatives that are better for the employees and clients,” said Norwood Health Department director Sigalle Reiss.
Reiss said safety in nail salons is a “definite” issue in health departments because there is no local regulation, just that of the state board of cosmetology.
Previously, Reiss and the department have passed out education pamphlets, but she said this program takes that a step farther.
The coalition plans to hire two consultants with money provided through a $25,000 grant from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell Toxics Use Reduction Institute.
One consultant will speak English, the other Vietnamese. Reiss said she hopes this will help salons whose employees may not speak English as a first language but still need information.
“I’m looking forward to creating a partnership with the Vietnamese community and addressing occupational health issues where employees may not even realize a potential link exists,” she said.
Officials from the health departments of the six towns will visit more than 100 area salons to try and understand problems and the general knowledge employees have about toxic hazards at work.
In a few months, the coalition hopes to hold a regional conference that will encourage small changes such as ventilation updates or the capping of products that affect air quality.
“The hope is to have a conference with salon owners, employees, and vendors -- that’s the long-term picture,” she said. “But for now, we really want to start developing a relationship.”
Natalie Feulner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.