Push for Healthier Nail Salons in California Finding Success

In this Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016, photo, Lan-Anh Truong performs a manicure at her Leann’s Nails in Alameda, Calif. All previous efforts to limit nail-salon workers’ exposure to harmful chemicals through legislation failed because of opposition from the chemical and beauty-products industry. But starting in 2010, Bay Area salon workers, immigrant women often with poor English and little idea of their rights, waged a grassroots campaign that has succeeded in establishing a county-health-department certified system of healthy nail salons in California. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg) THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

March 5, 2017

By ELLEN KNICKMEYER, Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — It was the swag-bags that convinced community health organizer Julia Liou to redraw the battle plan in a fight to reduce the hazardous chemical exposures of nail-salon workers, most of them low-paid Asian immigrant women.

In 2005, Liou watched at California’s state Capitol as dozens of lobbyists gave away bags of lipsticks and other beauty goodies to excited legislative staffers. It was part of the beauty and chemical industries’ effort to defeat a bill to ban one of the thousands of industrial compounds used to make manicure and pedicures prettier and longer lasting.

Liou and her colleagues lost on that bill. But the state Capitol cluster-swag emerged as a defining lesson for Liou, underscoring how hard it would always be to go lobbyist-for-lobbyist against the U.S. beauty industry, with its $62 billion in estimated revenue last year.

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