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NYC nail, hair salons could receive letter grades

Legislation aimed at protecting customers and workers from unsanitary conditions, toxic fumes
Organic product at Le Salon on East 44th Street.Miles Dixon, Metro

New Yorkers can look forward to not getting an infection with their weekly mani-pedi, and to a more hygienic hair cut.

Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., and Council Member Rafael Espina introduced legislation on Wednesday that would give letter grades to salons based on cleanliness, similar to the system for city restaurants.

Diaz and Espinal said most salon owners keep a clean shop. Those who don’t, however, are putting their customers at risk for infections and other health problems.

A report by City ombudsperson Letitia James says unsanitized tools have given customers fungul and other infections, including Staph. New York has 27 inspectors who inspect the state’s 5,000 nail salons, about 2,000 of which are in the city.

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If passed, the legislation would also create a customer bill of rights, and expand training for hair and nail professionals with the New York State Division of Licensing Services to make salons safer for customers and employees, who can be exposed to toxic chemicals in nail products.

“Maybe my boss don’t like it. I don’t care, A, B, C, D,” said Annie Tong, a manicurist at Candy Nail Salon in lower Manhattan.

Tong, who lives in Brooklyn and has been doing nails for 10 years, said she sees a lot of repeat customers who don’t usually question the sanitary standards, and come back for the affordable prices.

Rommy Pennella, executive director of the New York Hispanic Cosmetology and Beauty Chamber of Commerce, said local salon owners fear new requirements, such as ventilation systems, they won’t be able to afford.

“They have a lot of concern about it,” said Pennella, who said her organization advocates for both clients and owners.

Ashraf Ghashvand, a stylist at Le Salon, a hairdresser’s on East 44th Street, said when the salon opened six and a half years ago, they switched to organic products after seeing customers with sores and hives from conventional products.

The salon now sees clients with allergies, pregnant women, cancer patients and others who want an alternative to toxic chemicals.

“We are really trying to tell the public to stay healthy,” Ghashvand said. “We are going to get an ‘A’, definitely,” she said of the letter grading proposal.

“Most hairdressers, they get a license … but they never practice what they were taught,” said Vincent Blue Sky, a colorist at Le Salon who has been in the hair business since 1977.

“They don’t know how to clean, disinfect, sanitize, they don’t know what the quaternary ammonia, the blue stuff, is for, they just abuse it,” Blue Sky said. “Most of them are not ethical.”

Blue Sky said he supports the letter system, and a proactive way of inspecting salons by industry professionals.

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