Beauty Salons and Auto Shops Under Spotlight for Chemical Hazards

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has awarded a five-year, $2.98 million grant to the University of Arizona’s Zuckerman College of Public Health to conduct a study of  beauty salons and auto repair shops, whose workers are said to be at high-risk of chemical exposure.

The study will focus on businesses located on the south side of Tucson that employ primarily Latino workers. El Rio Community Health Center and the Sonora Environmental Research Institute Inc. will partner with the University of Arizona (UA) on the project.

According to a report in EHS Today, these businesses use solvents that include volatile organic chemicals associated with asthma, cancer, cardiovascular and neurological diseases. Part of the study will involve training community health workers (i.e., members of the community who provide basic health education) to identify hazardous chemicals in work settings and to work with the salons and repair shops to design and implement controls to reduce exposure.

The project aims to determine whether face-to-face interaction with community health workers can help increase the capacity of workers with marginalized status, limited education and reduced access to healthcare to understand workplace hazards and effective control options to reduce exposures and prevent occupational disease.

The research team will gather information about the businesses and investigate the likelihood of worker exposure to hazardous chemicals. The team will then work with the business owners, employees, community health workers, and trade groups to design an intervention focused on reducing the sources of dangerous workplace exposures.

Then they will implement the intervention in a formal clinical trial, evaluate its effectiveness and identify factors that led the businesses to use exposure control strategies.