A commentary published by the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene (JOEH) highlights the potential dangers faced by actors in the adult film industry and reviews potential enforcement actions and regulatory developments concerning the industry. The author of the article, industrial hygienist Deborah Gold, MPH, CIH, is former Deputy Chief of Health for Cal/OSHA, the agency that enforces California’s occupational health and safety laws. In the article, Gold suggests ways to reduce health hazards to adult film industry performers, including the consistent use of condoms, the provision of employer-paid, confidential, and voluntary medical services including vaccinations, and compliance with existing OSHA regulations.

Actors in the adult film industry often engage in sexual activities without the use of protection. Many adult film producers resist the use of condoms because they believe it makes their products less marketable, Gold found. Scenes involving actors who do not use condoms increase the risk of transmitting bloodborne pathogens, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis B virus (HBV), and therefore violate OSHA standards. “When an adult film producer plans a scene in which employees engage in unprotected sex, the producer is planning to violate the regulation by intentionally creating an ‘exposure incident,’” Gold writes.

The state judicial system has interpreted the California Labor Code to require employers to pay for measures necessary to protect employees’ life, safety, and health. However, performers in adult films often bear the costs of medical services such as testing for HIV and other STDs. Submitting to such tests is often a condition of employment in the industry and employees who are HIV positive may not be hired.

But enforcing health and safety regulations in adult film is complicated by the heavily fragmented nature of the industry. Individual scenes within a film may have been purchased from different producers, making it difficult for regulators to identify the employer responsible for protecting employees’ health and safety.

While regulators confront the challenges of enforcement, Gold calls on occupational health professionals to “recogniz[e] the hazards in this industry as legitimate issues that are within our professional purview to address.”

Read the full article in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Hygiene.