City to get tough on nail salons

The Boston Public Health Commission voted today to require annual licensing and regular inspections of the city's nail salons - many of them in Dorchester.

The new regulation is meant to reduce the odds of customers catching bacterial and fungal infections from improperly sanitized equipment, but especially to protect the health of salon workers, according to Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the commission's executive director.

"This is a big win for nail salon workers, most of whom are women and half of whom are of child-bearing age," Ferrer said. "They often work long hours and can be exposed to hazardous chemicals that can affect their fertility and cause a whole host of health problems."

According to the commission, workers at the city's 200 to 300 nail salons - the vast majority of which are either downtown or in Dorchester - face daily exposure to hazardous chemicals that can cause everything from headaches to infertility.

Under the new regulation, tools have to either be cleaned and disinfected after each use or disposed of, foot spas have to be sanitized after each customer and at the end of the day and nail technicians have to wear impermeablle gloves when handling potentially dangerous chemicals or when performing any procedures with the risk of breaking the client's skin.

Salons also have to keep on file "material safety data sheets" on all the chemicals they use.

Violations will mean fines of up to $300 per incident; repeat offenders risk having their licenses revoked.