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In Vietnamese nail salons, a push to breathe easier




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.
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.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
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.
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.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
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.
Musician Bianca Alatorre gets artificial nails on her right hand for playing guitar.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
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.
Magazines fill the waiting area inside Nancy's Nails in Santa Monica.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
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.
Chau Nguyen puts artificial nails on customer Bianca Alatorre. Nguyen first opened the nail shop on Sept. 4, 1985.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
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.
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.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
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.
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.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
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.
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.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC
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.
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.
Maya Sugarman/KPCC


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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.