Cosmetic Safety for Communities of Color and Professional Salon Workers Act
At a Glance
The Cosmetic Safety for Communities of Color and Professional Salon Workers Act of 2023 (Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) & Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE))
This bill would create cosmetic safety protections for women of color and professional hair, nail, and beauty salon workers.
These two vulnerable populations are at risk of hazardous exposures because of the toxic chemicals in the products marketed to them or commonly found in their workplaces.
This bill is part of the Safer Beauty Bill Package, four new bills introduced in Congress on May 23, 2023, to make beauty and personal care products safer for all by getting the toxic chemicals out, reducing hazardous chemical exposures for the most vulnerable, making fragrance disclosure the new industry standard and requiring supply chain transparency.
The Cosmetic Safety for Communities of Color and Professional Salon Workers Act of 2023 would federally mandate access to translated safety data sheets; funding for research grants to identify chemicals of concern in beauty and personal care products marketed to these already vulnerable populations; funding for the development of green chemistry safer alternatives; and funding for two new national resource centers focused on Beauty Justice and Health and Safety Protections for Professional Salon Workers.
Professional salon workers and communities of color are over-exposed to hazardous chemicals because of where they work, the products they work with, and the toxic products marketed to them. Thousands of industrial chemicals are used to make the personal care and beauty products that communities of color and professional nail, hair, and beauty salon workers use every day, and many of these chemicals are linked to serious harm to human health.
Potentially hazardous exposures for nail and hair salon workers include, but are not limited to, polish hardeners, thinners, plasticizers, bleaches, conditioners, detergents, dyes, fixatives, relaxers, and straighteners that are most often used as commercially-prepared mixtures.[i]
Hazardous chemicals are found in professional salon products that harm the lungs, cause allergic skin reactions, and are linked to reproductive harm and cancer. Yet, despite decades of warnings about these chemicals from public health officials and known harm to salon workers, very little innovation toward safer chemistry is evident in the professional salon product industry. Instead, the few harmful ingredients removed from products have been replaced with equally toxic or more toxic alternatives.[ix]
Manufacturers frequently provide product safety instructions that make it near impossible to use products in a way that avoids harm. And, despite new laws requiring ingredient disclosure, some salon products are still sold without ingredient listings on the label.
It is often difficult, sometimes even impossible, for salon workers to obtain Safety Data Sheets (SDS), which contain essential information on the health hazards associated with the salon product ingredients they are working with. Lack of access to Safety Data Sheets compounds the language barrier many salon workers experience.
For eight to ten hours a day, nail and hair salon workers are exposed to an array of dangerous chemicals from professional/personal care products, and the cumulative impact of these exposures over time is cause for concern.[ii]
In a population-based retrospective study of cosmetologists and manicurists in California, researchers found that women who work in this industry are at greater risk for adverse birth outcomes and maternal health complications.[iv] A New York survey showed that manicurists experienced reproductive health issues double the general population’s rate. They had over double the rate of complications during pregnancy and babies born with birth defects.[iii] Additionally, those working with acrylic nails were more likely to report health problems, such as nose irritation, allergies, skin irritation, stress, pain, coughing, nausea, difficulty breathing, asthma, and miscarriages.[v]
The work environment of hairdressers has also been reported to contain exposures that can harm reproductive health and cause cancer, skin irritation, and allergic diseases.[vi]
The combination of hazardous chemicals, inadequate access to information, lax regulatory standards, enforcement, and a largely immigrant workforce with cultural and language obstacles underscores the need for stronger federal cosmetic safety protections for this vulnerable population.
In their personal lives, women of color also suffer from a higher level of exposure to hazardous chemicals in the beauty products aggressively marketed to them – including hair dyes, hair relaxers and straighteners, skin lighteners, feminine douches, and some deodorants. These products contain chemicals linked to breast and ovarian cancer, uterine fibroids, reproductive harm, and more. This toxic exposure is of particular concern to Black women because they purchase and use more beauty products per capita than any other demographic and face many health disparities, including the highest breast cancer mortality rate of any U.S. racial or ethnic group.
Studies show that women of color have higher levels of beauty product-related environmental chemicals in their bodies, and even small exposures to toxic chemicals over time can trigger adverse health consequences.[vii] For instance, a recent NIEHS study found higher rates of breast cancer associated with the use of hair straighteners and permanent hair dye among black women: African American women who regularly dye their hair face a 60% increased risk of breast cancer compared to an 8% increased risk for white women.[viii]
Current state laws
In 2018, California enacted AB 2775 (Kalra), which requires professional cosmetic product labels to list ingredients.
In 2019, California enacted AB 647 (Kalra), which requires manufacturers to post Safety Data Sheets (SDS) for cosmetics and disinfectants on their websites. In addition, SDS must be translated into Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, and Korean.
In 2020, California enacted SB312 (Leva), which requires companies that sell cosmetic products in the state to report the presence of fragrance and flavor chemicals that harm human health or the environment to the state’s Department of Public Health, who then makes that information available on a publicly accessible database.
In 2020, California enacted AB2762 (Muratsuchi), which bans 24 of the worst-of-the-worst chemicals from cosmetic products sold in the state.
In 2022, California enacted AB2771 (Friedman), which bans the entire class of PFAS chemicals from cosmetic products sold in the state.
The Strengthening Cosmetics Safety for Communities of Color and Professional Salon Workers Act of 2023 would:
- Create a grants program to research the chemicals of concern in products marketed to communities of color and used by professional beauty, hair, and nail salon workers; the marketing tactics used by companies to sell these products; and develop community and salon education and interventions to respond to the problem.
- Create an EPA grants program to create green chemistry solutions to hazardous chemicals in beauty products marketed to women of color and used by professional salon workers.
- Require increased access to Safety Data Sheets (SDS) by salon owners and salon workers; and translate SDS into English, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Spanish, and other languages upon request.
- Authorize the creation of two Centers of Excellence on Cosmetic Safety for Communities of Color and Salon Worker Health and Safety to serve as central clearinghouses for resource materials creation and dissemination, network coordination, public outreach, and education.
For more information, contact:
Janet Nudelman, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Janet@BCPP.org
Catherine Porter, California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, firstname.lastname@example.org
Astrid Williams, Black Women for Wellness, Astrid@bwwla.org
[i] Labrèche F, Forest J, Trottier M, Lalonde M, Simard R. Characterization of chemical exposures in hairdressing salons. Appl Occup Environ Hyg. 2003;18(12):1014–1021. doi: 10.1080/10473220390244667. Pak VM, Powers M, Liu J. Occupational chemical exposures among cosmetologists: risk of reproductive disorders. Workplace Health Saf. 2013;61(12):522–528. doi: 10.1177/216507991306101204.
[ii] Sharma, Preeti et al., (2018). Nail Files: A Study of Nail Salon Workers and Industry in the United States.
[iii] California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative. (2011). Toxic Beauty No More! Retrieved from https://static1 .squarespace.com/static/5783e9b9be6594e480435ffe/t/58f44a7646c3c4fe785ebe8c/1492404857878 /Nail-Salon-Report-2011.short_.english.pdf.
[iv] Quach T, Von Behren J, Goldberg D, Layefsky M, Reynolds P. Adverse birth outcomes and maternal complications in licensed cosmetologists and manicurists in California. Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2014 Dec 14.
[v] White, H., Khan, K., Lau, C., Leung, H., Montgomery, D., & Rohlman, D. (2015). Identifying Health and Safety Concerns in Southeast Asian Immigrant Nail Salon Workers. Archives of Environmental & Occupational Health, 70(4), 196–203. doi:10.1080/19338244.2013.853644.
[vi] Quiros-Alcala L, Pollack AZ, Tchangalova N, DeSantiago M, Kavi LKA. Occupational exposures among hair and nail salon workers: a scoping review. Curr Environ Health Rep. 2019;6(4):269–285. doi: 10.1007/s40572-019-00247-3.
[vii] Zota, Ami R, and Bhavna Shamasunder. “The environmental injustice of beauty: framing chemical exposures from beauty products as a health disparities concern.” American journal of obstetrics and gynecology vol. 217,4 (2017): 418.e1-418.e6. doi:10.1016/j.ajog. 2017.07.020.
[viii] Eberle, Carolyn E et al. “Hair dye and chemical straightener use and breast cancer risk in a large US population of black and white women.” International journal of cancer vol. 147,2 (2020): 383-391. doi:10.1002/ijc.32738.
[ix] Women’s Voices for the Earth. (2023, March). Salon Label Report: Exposed Ingredients in Salon Products, Salon Worker Health and Safety. Retrieved from https://womensvoices.org/exposed-ingredients-in-salon-products-salon-worker-health-and-safety/
Types: Fact Sheet