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EPA Funds Environmental Justice Project in Springfield, Massachusetts Creation of Model Nail Salon Aims to Lessen Chemical Risks To Vietnamese Workers

Release Date: 01/25/2005
Contact Information:

Contact: Davina Wysin, EPA New England Office, (617) 918-1020

For Immediate Release: January 25, 2005; Release # dw050101

Boston -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced today that it is providing $100,000 in funding to help build a model nail salon in Springfield, Mass., which will address the serious health risks from chemical exposure to Vietnamese nail technicians. The funding is being awarded under a cooperative agreement with the Pioneer Valley Project, Inc., a multi-racial community organizing group working to improve quality of life and environment in the Pioneer Valley of Massachusetts.

The $100,000 in funding is being distributed over three years under the EPA's Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Cooperative Agreement Program, which was established in 2003 to help community-based organizations work to improve the environment in communities that are disproportionately burdened by environmental or health hazards. The Pioneer Valley Project is one of two organizations in New England and one of 30 organizations nationally that received the funding to support environmental justice activities through this program.

Nail technicians often work 10-12 hours in poorly ventilated rooms with hazardous and volatile chemicals. Common health ailments associated with these chemicals range from skin irritation and fungal, bacterial and viral infections to respiratory problems like asthma. Potential long-term exposure risks include damage to the nervous system, reproductive disorders and even cancer.

Vietnamese-owned nail salons are a major source of employment for low-income Vietnamese women in the Springfield area, with an estimated 300 salons in and around Springfield. Roughly 50 percent of the nail salons in Springfield are Vietnamese-owned. Nationally, Vietnamese salons make up an estimated 40-50 percent of the market.

"EPA focuses on environmental justice in New England to ensure that residents most at risk receive protection from health and environmental hazards," said Robert W. Varney, regional administrator of EPA's New England office, speaking today at the Vietnamese American Civic Association in Springfield, Mass. "This funding for the Pioneer Valley Project will help to improve the health of many Vietnamese nail salon workers and their families throughout the area."

"This is an exciting opportunity for the community, health care providers, state regulators and other partners to work collaboratively to address the environmental and public health concerns of Vietnamese nail salon workers potentially exposed to the hazardous chemicals found in nail care products," said Barry E. Hill, director of EPA's Office of Environmental Justice in Washington, D.C.

The funding will help project partners at the Lower Pioneer Valley Career and Technical Education Center build a model nail salon, featuring safe and affordable chemical management and reduction practices. The model salon will be used to provide hands-on training for the Vietnamese nail community. The Pioneer Valley Project will: develop culturally-appropriate training materials for salon workers; create educational programs on chemical risk protection; and teach health care providers that service the Vietnamese community how to identify and treat symptoms of chemical exposure.

"The project is very helpful for nail businesses because it is important for them to learn about chemical safety and protect the health of employees, owners and customers," said Elizabeth Vo, the executive director of the Springfield Vietnamese American Civic Association.

"The success of these combined strategies will help resolve the emerging conflicts between the expanding population of Vietnamese nail salons and regulators," said Fred Rose, lead organizer at Pioneer Valley Project. "The funding will allow local nail salons to improve health and safety while ensuring that these businesses continue to thrive and provide jobs for the community."

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Related INformation:
Environmental Justice Program
Human Health