In Their Own Words
A Student Speaks Out About Her Summer at Fielding
By Teni Adewumi
“Could you count how many times you have visited a hair salon? For me at 23, it would be many fingers and toes. All those times I went to go get my hair done I didn’t know that the chemicals could be causing me adverse health.
The women and men owning and operating these businesses in the hair care industry have been serving our communities for countless years. However, some of the shampoos, conditioners and other hair products they utilized every day may be causing harm. The cosmetic and personal care industry is not regulated, leaving a question of safety for us consumers and our hair professionals.
As an Industrial Hygiene student at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, an exciting opportunity arose this past summer to be part of the nationwide Occupational Health Internship Program (OHIP). As an OHIP intern I spent my summer working alongside nonprofit, Black Women for Wellness (BWW), on the Healthy Hair Initiative Project. This project aims to bring awareness of adverse health effects associated with certain hair products and to educate and empower hair professionals and community members alike to advocate for a healthier hair product industry.
My partner, Esmeralda Ponce, and I surveyed hair professionals in South Los Angeles on their occupational health and safety exposures, such as product use, salon ventilation, chemical exposures and ergonomic issues. We also conducted focus groups with these professionals, discussing the creation of healthier hair salons and adoption of greener products. We found that many hair professionals experienced wrist and back pains, and negative health implications from chemical exposure during work. We heard horror stories of stylists losing finger prints from working with certain chemicals, and stylists coming down with respiratory disorders from inhaling product fumes.
The information we gathered this summer has contributed to increased awareness of chemical exposures in every day beauty products. Continuing as a staff member at BWW, I will further develop this work, including environmental justice and awareness training sessions for hair professionals in our local area. Working with organizations such as the Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative and Women’s Voices for the Earth, we hope to bring awareness to the health implications of beauty products to both ourselves and our industry professionals.
For more information please visit http://www.bwwla.org/, or call Teni Adewumi at (323) 290-5955.
Teni Adewumi is a 2nd year Environmental Health Sciences-Industrial Hygiene master’s student at the Fielding School of Public Health. When she is not advocating for the health and safety of hair professionals in the community, she is training for the LA Marathon-Charity Relay.