Web Zap*Germs Archive

June 19, 2004

Paula Abdul's Infection Highlights Unsanitary Nail Salon Conditions

  • Update 30 Sep 2005: Read about an unusual treatment for stubborn nail fungus.
  • Update 28 June 2005: Paula testifies before California legislators in support of a bill to increase nail-salon health standards.
  • Update 22 April 2005: Paula Abdul's struggle with RSD.
  • Update 23 March 2005: nail-salon hygiene.

  • [Find Paula's music on Amazon.]

    Singer and American Idol judge Paula Abdul recently had a thumbnail surgically removed after developing a severe infection. Abdul claimed she received the infection after a Studio City, California manicurist poked Abdul's thumb while working on the celebrity's nails. The salon denies they were responsible.

    However Abdul's situation plays out, her misfortune has shined a light on sanitary conditions in nail salons. Earlier this month, ABC News's 20/20 program reported on an investigation revealing that of 27 discount nail salons tested by an independent laboratory, 24 showed evidences of bacteria or fungi that could lead to infection. The 20/20 site features a lengthy article summarizing their investigation.

    It doesn't appear to be a case of poor front-end regulation: California requires manicurists to be individually licensed; practitioners must be at least 17 years old and have completed an approved course involving at least 400 hours of training. According to 20/20's report, economic pressure among discount nail salons has led to the hiring of immigrants who may not understand English well enough to properly use the necessary disinfectants (or get licensed?).

    However, four years ago it was reported that while California had over 36,000 businesses licensed by the Bureau of Barbering and Cosmetology, the bureau had only 15 inspectors conducting oversight inspections. It appears the industry -- if conditions in that state can be extrapolated to the entire country -- is seriously under-inspected.

    So how can you tell which nail salons are safe? features an excellent article, taken from the Santa Cruz [CA] Sentinel, with tips on how to check out your salon. Follow the link for the full list, but here are two easy ones:

    -- Manicurists should wash their hands with soap before each touching a client’s hands, and should ask each client to wash their hands before the service.
    -- Manicurists should lay a clean towel over their stations for every client. Pedicure clients also should get clean towels to rest their feet on, and whirlpools should be disinfected after each use.

    The Louisville [KY] Courier-Journal also has a good set of pointers, which include:

    -- Look for a proper state license posted in the store.
    -- Make sure your operator has a state license that includes his or her photo.
    -- Check for the general cleanliness of the establishment.
    -- Note the cleanliness practices of the operator.


    At 11/21/2007 3:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

    I Developed MRSA infection next to left thumbnail after a manicure last month. Since I had really no symptoms for four days, the salon is balking at taking any responsibility ("3 day policy".) They finally said I should send info from my doctor to them for their insurance.
    My infection has subsided now after four visits to doctors, three strong antibiotics, and twice daily draining, cleaning & bandaging. The skin has retracted from the bottom of the thumbnail (which looks odd) and the top of my thumb skin is discolored and stiff. Still cannot bend that knuckle normally.
    I'm waiting for my health insurance to take over on claiming the nail salon is at fault. Do I need Paula Abdul's attorney? -Typhoid Mary, no, make that "MRSA Sandy"


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