Sleeping Beauty Awakened From Chemical Vapors
Seattle Times, inspired by some USEPA leadership, asks: - "You're buying organic vegetables, ecologically safe cleaning products and natural-fiber T-shirts -- but what about your nail salon, which smells more like an industrial paint shop than a place of beauty? The Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday is awarding two local non-profit groups $100,000 to help nail salons go green -- or at least greener. Salons use polishes, solvents and chemicals to make acrylic nails, some of which contain ingredients that can cause a range of health ailments including cancer, mental confusion and birth defects. The fumes and skin contact can pose a risk to salon workers and customers alike." There's an interesting cultural and ethnic confluence with risk, well covered in the article. One dimension not covered, however, is the supply chain. To reduce customer and worker exposures, it's not just a matter of lobbying chemical companies to change formulations of items sold in mainstream beauty supply houses or at Wal-Mart. There's black market for cheap, unacceptably hazardous nail product formulations, some from Asia, some home bottled and bootlegged. To some extent, then, the risk is outside the direct control of big name companies. Moreover, unless customers and service businesses have an awareness of chemical hazards involved, it's almost pointless to discuss which is better, regulatory versus voluntary enforcement of FDA regulations. This grant should be helpful in the matter of building stakeholder understanding.
Let's try another vantage point: few if any of the persons exposed to the hazardous materials are going to be reading TreeHugger; and, blaming the makers of solvents, who happen to be at least 3 steps up the supply chain from the suppliers of nail salons, is also an inadequate approach. Bravo then to USEPA for rolling up their sleeves and helping awaken local communities. A princely deed.