New ventilation requirements to protect the health of workers and customers in New York state nail salons will begin taking effect Oct. 3, 2016.

In announcing the rule New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said nail salon workers have been “grossly exploited” and exposed to dangerous chemicals.

Owners charged workers for supplies

The rule is part of a series of reforms following Cuomo’s creation last year of a Nail Salon Industry Enforcement Task Force to address widespread exploitation and abuse of nail salon workers. Changes included a requirement that owners provide adequate supplies of appropriate protective equipment, such as masks, eye protection and gloves. Many salon owners were previously charging manicurists for supplies such as gloves and nail clippers.

Under the new rule, nail salon ventilation systems must meet the standard set by the 2015 International Mechanical Code, which contains specific ventilation requirements for nail salons and any other businesses that provide nail services, such as hair salons.

These requirements include supplying fresh outdoor air sufficient to remove all chemicals, vapors, fumes, dust and other air contaminants from the salon and exhaust them safely to the outdoors. The ventilation systems must assure that no exhaust air will be recirculated into the salon or into any other space in the building where the business is operating. The code also requires specific exhaust systems at all manicure and pedicure work stations.

Toxic beauty products

Among the thousands of chemicals in nail products are formaldehyde, toluene, dibutyl phthalate, and methacrylates, which have been linked to reproductive problems, asthma and cancer.

Hundreds of salon owners have formed alliances -- such as the Chinese Nail Salon Association – aimed at resisting new regulations. Their efforts included staging a one-day shutdown of their facilities to protest the government’s actions.

Compliance dates

Salons licensed before October 3, 2016, will have an additional five years to comply with the code. By October 3, 2021, all salons will be required to have ventilation systems that meet the new standard. New ventilation regulations are supported by a report produced by the Department of Health, which found that there are potentially harmful chemicals in nail products that can cause short term and long term health consequences for workers. 

The new nail salon ventilation regulations can be found here. The Department of State’s Division of Licensing Services will be holding a series of outreach meetings in the coming weeks to explain the new regulations to the nail salon industry and other businesses licensed by the Department that provide nail services.