Toxic chemicals & the workers that have to use them

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

By Dana Ginn Paredes

When it comes to toxic chemicals in consumer products, one of the most popular messages we hear are about the potentially harmful impact of chemicals on children's health and safety. As a new mom, I completely get this and spend countless hours researching for toys and products that will cause the least harm to my little one.

Most people pay attention to issues that put our children in harms way… But how can we get people to see that this issue affects everyone in our family? And depending on where our family members work, it may affect some families more than others.

For some of the young women we work with, this is just the case. They have parents who work in nail salons, dry cleaners, and other toxic industries where they work and are surrounded by toxic chemicals every day.

Workers health and safety and the impact of toxic chemicals in the workplace is a story we rarely get to hear. But just last week, our allies with the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative mobilized numerous members of the nail salon community to a meeting with the San Francisco Supervisors to consider local legislation  that would encourage residents to patron nail salons that use green-er nail products.

The fight against toxic chemicals has been a long and bumpy road – one that is currently being waged in both sides of Congress at the federal level, as well as at the state level. It is great to see examples of local activism contributing towards change on this historically pressing issue NOW, and imagine that some families are taking in a big breath of fresh air knowing that some relief is in their near future.

Recently we worked with Emmy-award-winning filmmaker Charles Stuart to develop a short video documenting the story of a nail salon worker in our community. Such stories are critical to increasing public awareness of the need for comprehensive chemical policy that protect everyone, including workers who are at the front lines of exposure to toxic chemicals.

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