Today, Board of Supervisors President David Chiu and Director of the Department of the Environment Melanie Nutter recognized eight San Francisco nail salons that achieved the City’s prestigious Healthy Nail Salon designation.  San Francisco’s Healthy Nail Salon Program is the first of its kind in the nation, aiming to reward nail salons that make safer choices for their employees, customers, and the environment. Board President Chiu was instrumental in working with stakeholders and leading the Board of Supervisors to adopt legislation allowing for this recognition program to be created.

“With 250 salons across the city and over 2,200 technicians, it’s important that we work to protect their health and safety, as well as those who visit these businesses,” said San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu. “I hope that consumers will look for the Healthy Nail Salon seal and support these salons with their business,” added Board President Chiu.

Salon technicians in San Francisco are primarily women of reproductive age.  The City is greatly concerned with their repeated and prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals commonly found in polishes and other products. Among the most harmful chemicals found are Toluene, Dibutyl phthalate, and Formaldehyde. Commonly known as the “toxic trio,” these chemicals have been linked to cancer, birth defects, and miscarriages. 

To reduce exposure to these chemicals, the Healthy Nail Salon program requires that salons go through a rigorous checklist of safety measures including use of gloves by all technicians, installation of localized ventilation (the program provided a financial incentive for the first ten salons), hours of training for all employees, and choosing safer nail products.

“The Healthy Nail Salon program exemplifies our department’s mission to create and implement innovative programs that promote social equity, protect human health, and lead the way toward a sustainable future. This program showcases our commitment to protecting workers and residents from exposure to toxic chemicals and is part of our core mission. We look forward to working with other cities and counties to share our model and advocate for the health of nail salon technicians,” said Melanie Nutter, Director of the San Francisco Department of the Environment.

“I'm very glad to be participating in the San Francisco Healthy Nail Salon program. I was nervous at first because I thought it might be hard to do, or might cost too much money, but in the end the staff at the department of the environment helped me out a lot. I feel so much better now knowing that my employees and customers are safe from harmful chemicals,” said Tony Dao owner of Salon Bella Linda on California Street.

Recognized salons receive a plaque, collateral materials for customers, and promotion by the San Francisco Department of the Environment. The department will conduct a consumer education campaign alerting residents to look for the recognition seal when they are choosing a nail salon. 

San Francisco’s Healthy Nail Salon Program was created in part to respond to environmental and workplace safety concerns for both salon employees and patrons.  San Francisco’s program is timely given a recent study by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) that revealed numerous nail care products sampled in the San Francisco Bay Area are making toxic-free claims that aren’t supported by laboratory testing.

DTSC reported that despite their labels claiming otherwise, some mainstream nail care products sold in Northern California contain high levels of hazardous chemicals that have been linked to cancer, birth defects, asthma and other chronic health conditions.

The findings highlight the need for DTSC’s proposed Safer Consumer Products Regulations which would catalyze efforts to remove unsafe ingredients from consumer goods.

The San Francisco Department of the Environment developed comprehensive guidelines through an open and collaborative process working with salon owners, advocates, technical consultants and representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the DTSC.  Public hearings were hosted and translated as program regulations were developed. 

The San Francisco Department of the Environment has also conducted a joint Regional Applied Research Effort with Environmental Protection Agency, Region 9 (EPA) and Cancer Prevention Institute of California (CPIC), where indoor air monitoring was conducted to further understand nail salon worker health.    EPA is one of the primary Federal interagency teams that is working on the White House Initiative of safety and health issues facing workers in the nail salon industry.

“EPA commends the eight nail salons certified today for going above and beyond federal law to protect their workers and serve as examples for the rest of the country and world,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest.  “The Agency is pleased its support of the Cancer Prevention Institute of California is making a real-world difference by safeguarding workers and customers from toxic salon supplies.”

The Department of the Environment recognized how important it is to be culturally sensitive when working in the nail salon industry and thus conducted all its outreach and training in both English and Vietnamese. 

“We applaud the San Francisco Department of Environment for implementing this greatly needed model for our nation’s cities and counties.  This program will set in motion healthier workplace practices that benefit workers and consumers, but most importantly, will encourage manufacturers to produce safer nail care products,” said Julia Liou from the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative and Asian Health Services.  The California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative is a statewide coalition focused on improving the health, safety and rights of the nail and beauty care workforce to achieve a healthier, more sustainable and just industry.

More Information

For more information about the Healthy Nail Salon program and to find a recognized salon please visit:

If you own a salon and want to enroll in the Healthy Nail Salon program please visit to find the application form.

Vietnamese In-Language Interview Opportunity:

The San Francisco Department of the Environment will provide Vietnamese speaking representatives to discuss the Healthy Nail Salon Program and be available for interviews between 11:30AM-1PM on Wednesday, December 12, at 11 Grove Street.

Download Press Release (English)

Download Press Release (Vietnamese)


“Issue Brief of the Nail Salon Industry: The Impact of Environmental Toxins on API Women’s Reproductive Health.” 2008. National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.

California EPA Proposition 65 California EPA (California Environmental Protection Agency). Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, Chemicals known to the State to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity.

Characterizing workplace exposures in Vietnamese women working in California nail salons. Quach T et al. Am J Public Health. 2011 Dec;101 Suppl 1:S271-6. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2010.300099. Epub 2011 May 6.