April 19, 2018

Cortez Masto, Harris Introduce Legislation to Protect Workers from Occupational Health Hazards

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) introduced the Environmental Justice Right to Know Act – legislation to address shortcomings in the disclosure of chemicals in pesticides and personal care products. Workers who handle these personal care products—in hair salons, nail salons, and agricultural settings—are often women from low-income communities or communities of color. These workers are more likely than the general population to experience negative health effects. Current law lacks clarity regarding the disclosure of the ingredients in these products and protecting vulnerable populations from harmful health effects.

“In many service, manufacturing, and agricultural jobs, workers are unaware of the dangers of chemicals in the products they use to do their work,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “Workers must know exactly what potential health hazards come with products they use in the workplace so that they can take the necessary precautions to stay safe. Unfortunately, workers who are often from low-income or communities of color are exposed to harmful chemicals due to poor labeling or lack of transparency from manufacturers. I am proud to support a bill that prioritizes the health of workers across the nation by requiring better labeling and improving occupational safety standards.”

“Workers at nail salons, hair salons, and other industries that handle harmful chemicals and pesticides have the right to be informed about the products they are exposed to in order to ensure the health and safety of their communities,” said Senator Harris. “Companies have a moral responsibility to provide labels – in multiple languages – to safeguard immigrant and communities of color. We must also invest in research to examine the effects of personal care products, because we do know that these chemicals harm people. Everyone deserves the ability to breathe clean air, drink clean water and know what’s in the products that are around them every day.”

The Environmental Justice Right to Know Act would:

  • Strengthen Pesticide Labeling Requirements: Directs the EPA to require Spanish translations of all essential safety and environmental information on pesticide products including: warnings and precautionary statements; information on exposure symptoms, toxicity levels, first aid, personal protective equipment, and Restricted Entry Intervals (REIs); general safe handling and usage directions; storage and disposal instructions and other directions to prevent environmental contamination. 
  • NIOSH Ventilation Research Requirements: Ventilation systems and mechanisms that ventilate the chemicals and dust particles away from the breathing zone of workers are needed. Directs the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to conduct further research on ventilation in nail and hair salons and report on the level of ventilation necessary for health protective ambient air and breathing zone air quality for workers in salons.
  • Require Accessibility of Information to Employees: Requires that safety data sheets (SDS) of all cosmetic and personal products used by nail, hair, barber and other beauty professionals be available on the manufacturer or product maker website and ensure they be easily accessed via the name of the specific product line. Requires that all SDS for products used in the professional beauty salon industry be translated into languages spoken by a significant number of professionals including Spanish, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, and Nepali.
  • Establish an Employee Training Program: The Secretary of Labor shall assure that the hazards facing nail and hair salon workers are included as a targeted topic for training in any future announcements of OSHA Susan Harwood Training Grants.
  • Research Effects of Personal Care Products: Directs the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to issue a report to Congress on the long-term negative health effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals, carcinogens, neurotoxicants and asthmagens in beauty and personal care products on the health of women of color and other highly impacted communities.

The Environmental Justice Right to Know Act is endorsed by the National Hispanic Medical Association, National Council of Asian and Pacific Islander Physicians, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, California Association for Micro Enterprise Opportunity, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative.

Text of the Environmental Justice Right to Know Act is available here.