Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Environmental Studies Program


Gail Carlson

Second Advisor

Chris Walker

Third Advisor

Philip Nyhus


Environmental-health disparities in nail salons lies at a unique intersection of environmental, health, and social justice. Although the nail industry is booming in the United States, business often occurs at the expense of the well-being of nail salon workers. The workforce, many of whom are immigrant Vietnamese women, routinely handles products containing known carcinogens and endocrine disruptors. Furthermore, workers disproportionately experience negative health impacts from working in salons, including respiratory or musculoskeletal disorders. This behavioral study assesses potential variables (demographic background, health, personal behavior, salon management, and external influence) that impact the attitudes of Vietnamese nail salon workers toward environmental-health concerns within their salons. This study gathered primary data through semi-structured interviews of fifteen nail technicians and salon owners in the Snohomish and King County regions of Seattle, Washington. Results indicate that personal experiences and behaviors, including a prioritization of personal health, greatly influence attitudes toward environmental-health concerns. Additionally, Vietnamese nail salon workers and owners exhibit varying levels of concern about the health effects from working in salons; however, high rates of PPE usage were not correlated to concern over occupational health hazards. This study intends to highlight how Vietnamese nail salon workers understand and articulate their unique experiences and concerns toward health and safety in nail salons and thereby inform community or policy-based interventions to ensure healthy and safe nail salons. In uplifting this unique immigrant narrative and understudied environmental-health issue, this study seeks to expand environmental justice and equity work to incorporate immigrant narratives and experiences.


Environmental justice, Environmental health, Nail salon, Immigrant labor, Community-based interventions, Asian-American studies