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In Vietnamese nail salons, a push to breathe easier

Nail Salon

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Chau Nguyen, co-owner of Nancy's Nails in Santa Monica, paints a customer's nails on Wednesday morning, March 5. Nancy's Nails is one of four nail salons in Santa Monica participating in the Healthy Nail Salon Recognition Program.

Nail Salon

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Nguyen has run Nancy's Nails in the same storefront on Pico Boulevard for 28 years. He said the street has changed a lot and used to be much quieter.

Nail Salon

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Musician Bianca Alatorre gets artificial nails on her right hand for playing guitar.

Nail Salon

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Magazines fill the waiting area inside Nancy's Nails in Santa Monica.

Nail Salon

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Chau Nguyen puts artificial nails on customer Bianca Alatorre. Nguyen first opened the nail shop on Sept. 4, 1985.

Nail Salon

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Artificial nails are labeled in Vietnamese at Nancy's Nails in Santa Monica. Out of 30 nail salons in the city, only four joined the Healthy Nail Salon Recognition Program.

Nail Salon

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

As part of the program, Nguyen started stocking his nail polishes with brands like O.P.I. and Essie that don't use harmful chemicals. Each bottle is about five dollars in bulk, compared to one dollar or less for the salon's previous brands.

Nail Salon

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Co-owner Phan Nguyen books an appointment with a regular customer on Wednesday, March 5 at Nancy's Nails. Before coming to the U.S. from Vietnam, Nguyen was a middle school teacher.

Nail Salon

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Chau Nguyen shows a regular customer the booklet he received during a 2-3 hour class as part of the Santa Monica Healthy Nail Salon Recognition Program. The book is in English and Vietnamese.


The vast majority of California's nail technicians are of Vietnamese descent. There's increasing concerns about the chemicals they are exposed to at nail salons.

KPCC's Josie Huang has more on the potential health dangers, and how some salon workers in Santa Monica are starting to protect themselves.


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