Occupational Safety and Health Issue Addressed: The POLISH project has identified multiple exposures of Vietnamese nail salon workers and Asian Pacific Islander girls through occupational and consumer use to chemicals which are either proven or suspected health stressors, as well as added to the body of knowledge about to how make effective interventions with low-income, immigrant and refugee workers and girls within an ethnic-specific small business niche which will impact practice by nail salon community members and among researchers, regulators, the environmental justice movement and the women's and community health fields. Importance of Problem: Many chemicals in personal care products are known or suspected to cause reproductive, developmental, and other health problems. These chemicals also have a unique transmission route to women and girls and a seemingly unshakeable one given the hold of beauty products in their socialization. In the U.S., the beauty care industry generates $52.7 billion a year. Yet, with the exception of some hair products and the hair dressing occupation, researchers have just begun to explore the risks involved in the constant use of personal care products by consumers and workers in the beauty industry. Furthermore, chemicals in beauty products remain relatively unregulated despite mounting public awareness and concern. Some women have higher exposure levels through work in cosmetology and the nail salon industry. In California, there are approximately 8,300 nail salons and more than 300,000 people licensed to work in them, about 80% of whom are Vietnamese women. As refugees and immigrants, they are often limited to working in low-wage toxic industries such as the nail salon industry to support their families and extended families. Yet, little research is available on the toxic chemicals that nail salon workers are exposed to daily. Many areas of the industry continue to be unregulated and the areas where government regulations exist are focused primarily on the health and safety of consumers, not workers. Approach: The POLISH project is based on the methodology of community based participatory research, and integrates several strands of research and interventions into one project that maximizes community participation. Specifically, POLISH continued to build on ACRJ's: 1) strong working partnership of community, academic, and clinic partners developed over the past nine years; 2) demonstrated and replicable model of CBPR which engaged API women and girls in researching environmental health issues, educating their community, and developing successful environmental health interventions, also developed over the past nine years; 3) multi-tiered youth leadership program involving over 500 API girls from low-income, immigrant and refugee families over the past nine years; and 4) using the youth leadership model, POLISH developed a multi-tiered worker leadership program involving over 200 Vietnamese, low-income, immigrant and refugee women nail salon workers. Key Findings: The POLISH project underscores the significant need for community-based participatory research, and the targeted interventions resulting from such CBPR, in order to bring about culturally and linguistically relevant change for underserved communities facing environmental hazards. POLISH girls and workers implemented six successful interventions that not only impacted state-level policy and teens' awareness and knowledge of toxins in personal care products, but also began to address the root cause of the lack of power for these underserved communities to eliminate inequality while promoting broader systemic and community change. POLISH youth, workers, and their communities are rarely included in the development of interventions that will both benefit them directly as well as are relevant to their histories and lived experiences. Throughout the course of this project, they have been at the center of the design and implementation of the work, and have built their leadership, skills and capacity to influence critical decisions for themselves and their communities. POLISH key findings are: 1. Links between toxins in low-wage industries to climate change and women's health The POLISH model and findings pointed the way for ACRJ to develop a groundbreaking model looking at the intersection of women's health and climate change (WH/CC) which has generated tremendous momentum at national, regional and local levels. This WH/CC model is described in ACRJ's newest report, Looking Both Ways: Women's Lives at the Crossroads of Reproductive Justice and Climate Justice (http://forwardtogether.org/assets/docs/ACRJ-MS5-Looking-Both-Ways.pdf
). The WH/CC model and analysis focuses on immigrant women working in low-wage toxic industries, a population rarely discussed or included in climate change dialogue, and how they can be leaders in understanding, mitigating, and adapting to climate change. 2. Ongoing need for access to accurate, culturally and linguistically competent, updated information about health and safety protections for nail salon workers POLISH work has made evident that until a recent change made in October 2009 after years of POLISH and other partners' advocacy, State agencies such as the California State Board of Barbering and Cosmetology (BBC) and CalOSHA provide limited support for low-income, immigrant and refugee Vietnamese women workers in nail salons as there is little access to accurate, culturally and linguistically competent, updated information about health and safety protections for nail salon workers. 3. Ongoing need for research, education and advocacy around toxins in personal care products, particularly those used by teen girls including lip products Over the course of the POLISH project, the pervasive health impact of chemicals in personal care and other consumer products has become the subject of increasing public, private, and NGO research and interest, with the precautionary principle gaining academic and mainstream support. Along with other developments in the field, POLISH results indicate a need for more research, education and advocacy around toxins in personal care products, particularly those used by teen girls. The results of the POLISH lipstick study (unpublished to date) indicate levels of aluminum, chromium, manganese, and lead in lip products that could indicate exposure levels of concern for young women's and all women's health. Our data indicate the need for further studies to evaluate metal concentrations in lip products, as well as other cosmetics, and the related potential health risks. 4. Ongoing need for more leadership development models in nail salon worker community that can be sustained over the long term Over the course of the POLISH project, it became clear that nail salon workers have great interest and need in accessing leadership and training opportunities, but these opportunities are few. Leadership development models in this community must leverage its strengths and vitality, including the presence of ethnic enclaves that are close-knit, often familial, communities which provide peer-to-peer information and support. While this network falls short of being able to fully support nail salon workers around health and safety protections, we view this network as an undeniable community resource which can sustain effective and relevant practices and models after a proposed project or intervention is over. How Results Can Be Utilized in Workplace: POLISH findings can be utilized in nail salons in the following ways: 1) ensure that Vietnamese nail salon workers, owners, and cosmetology students have access to the BBC's new bilingual Vietnamese/English Laws and Regulations; and 2) ensure that all workers, owners, and cosmetology students have access to the most current health and safety regulations, protections, and protocols of state regulatory agencies.