Canadian nail salons vulnerable to poor health, working conditions
The abuse of nail salon workers isn't confined to New York.
A recent investigation by the New York Times exposed the poor health, work and financial conditions that nail salon workers see every day in the Big Apple.
But Anne Rochon Ford, co-director of National Network on Environment and Women’s Health, said nail salon workers north of the border are just as vulnerable.
"They are exposed to a range of chemicals in the products that they use that we know from the medical literature can cause a host of problems," Rochon Ford told CTV's Canada AM.
According to a 2006 study, there is an increased risk of developing asthma from exposure to chemicals such as sensitizers and irritants commonly used by cosmetologists. The study found that one in five cosmetologists in Colorado developed asthma during employment.
Problems also include respiratory illnesses, skin conditions, miscarriages and even cancer.
The New York Times did a series of interviews with salon workers and owners over a year-long period and found these problems were common in the salon community.
They included one woman who had a number of miscarriages, and one whose fingerprints are almost gone.
The report also found that nail salon workers were being subjected to humiliating conditions. Some workers weren't paid while they learned the trade, had their tips taken by owners, and after working months for free, were given a salary far below the minimum wage.
Many workers are afraid to come forward about the abuses due to their often vulnerable status as new or illegal immigrants in the country.
In Canada, salon workers face a similar situation, Rochon Ford said.
"The degree of the problem, as far as we know, is comparable here," she said. "We can't say for sure how bad the situation is."
Rochon Ford noted there is hardly any regulation of nail salon workers in Canada. It's currently up to provinces to monitor the health and working conditions, and to hand out licences.
However, not all municipalities require a licence to run a salon.
Statistics Canada reported there were 9,000 nail salons operating in Ontario as of 2014, but the licensing rules means there could be more.
Toronto is one of the municipalities that don't require a licence to operate.
Federal regulation would help put an end to worker abuse in nail salons, Rochon Ford said, and could stop the use of harmful chemicals.
She suggested stronger regulation needs to happen right away, because the industry isn't going anywhere.
"They're popping up like mushrooms," she said of nail salons.