Things to Consider Before Receiving Your Next Nail Care

By: Sara Kim

Edited By: Sharon E. Chin


Research results by the Department of Toxic Substances Control for the California Environmental Protection Agency have revealed several significant health hazards caused by chemicals used in nail and beauty products. Nail salon workers have the highest risk, as they are exposed to fumes from nail polish lacquer for long periods of time; their exposure to acrylics and other strong chemicals make them notorious for their susceptibility to respiratory and skin problems. These workers commonly show asthma-like symptoms and experience pain when touching cold or hot objects. Also common ailments shared among female nail salon workers include a tendency to have miscarriages or give birth to children with physical and/or cognitive impairments. Some studies even suggest that there are carcinogens in nail products.

Unfortunately, research in the field of nail care products is vague, as not enough studies have been conducted with the accuracy needed to draw firm conclusions. Hence, it is difficult to confidently declare the exact degree to which chemicals in nail products threaten the health of salon workers. Even the federal law that regulates cosmetics safety, written in the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act of 1938, is outdated and based on standards appropriated 75 years ago. On top of that, efforts to review these standards have been continuously dismantled by the Personal Care Products Council lobbying the review panel. Although many workplace safety officials agree about the dire situation for nail salon workers, not much action has been taken to actually improve the work environment. In fact, because many of these workers are immigrants who are either unaware of their rights or too scared to stand up for themselves, it makes it easier for employers to engage in unfair labor practices and abuse the workers for their labor.

The question you may ask at this point is: how, then, can I receive nail care ethnically? In “How to get an ethical manicure: a guide to spotting worker exploitation,” Dara Lind lists some things to consider before walking into a nail salon. First, it is important to understand the difference between exploitation and trafficking. Exploitation occurs when the workers are unfairly treated, whether through hazardous working environments or low pay. On the other hand, labor trafficking is defined by workers who are forced into jobs without their consent and do not receive compensation for their work. When such situations are spotted, report for help accordingly, either to your state’s Department of Labor for worker exploitation or to the National Human Trafficking Hotline for trafficking. Lind also suggests straightforwardly asking store owners how they distribute their money, as the owners would gladly share the information if they are not guilty. Lind also suggests understanding that there may be language barriers before making any judgments and promoting businesses you know frequent.

Sara (Da Som) Kim is an undergraduate student at the University of California, Berkeley. She is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes.

Reference: Nir, Sarah Maslin. “Perfect Nails, Poisoned Workers.”  New York Times. May 8, 2015. URL: Date accessed 5/24/15.

Lind, Dara. “How to get an ethical manicure: a guide to spotting worker exploitation.”  Vox Health Care. May 8, 2015. URL: Date accessed 5/24/15.

Photo Credit: Nicole Bengiveno/ The New York Times.


Costly Health Care for Elderly Inmates

Wheelchair Inmate

By: Kristine Alarcon

The people confined in prison are getting sicker and older. There has been a rapid increase in prisoners 50 years and older in crowded federal correctional facilities. The rate is so fast that geriatric wards or convalescent homes are needed in prisons. As a result, American taxpayers are paying for the rising health care costs associated with the elderly inmates.

The cost to maintain the health and provide medical services for an elderly inmate is about twice as much as it is to keep a regular prisoner. Taxpayers pay almost $58,956 a year to cover the medical care for an older prisoner in comparison to $27,549 a year for a general prison member. Some health care costs include wheelchair-accessible entrances, showers that the elderly can use, prescriptions drugs, treatments, and more nurses.

One prisoner, Michael E. Hodge, was convicted of marijuana and gun possession. While he served his time, he was bedridden and could not provide care for himself as a result of his liver cancer. Hodge required assistance from nurses to get out of bed, eat, and clothe himself. He was denied compassionate release for at least four occasions and died in prison.

Nurses are not the only ones hired to care for the inmates. Physical therapists, dentists, psychologists, dietitians, and social workers are also needed to check up on the health of prisoners. With more specialists needed, the higher the costs will be. With the nature of prisons where fights could break out anytime and anywhere, many medical providers prefer to stay away making it more difficult to support the health of prisoners.

The Obama administration is working towards releasing prisoners early through clemency if they meet a certain criteria. They are also pressing prosecutors to charge serious, high level offenders with more severe drug charges because a majority of the elderly inmates are convicted for less severe drug crimes. For example, an elderly prisoner may only be imprisoned for marijuana possession or gun possession, but not for organizing a drug transport. Meanwhile, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, an independent agency, reduced the sentences of tens of thousands incarcerated drug offenders. Though there are means to accelerate the process to release elderly prisoners, it is not fast enough and the government must spend more to serve the medical needs and issues of this population. It is inevitable that prisons have to provide some form of medical care for the inmates.

Kristine Alarcon is a senior at the University of San Francisco working towards a Bachelors of Science in Biology. She is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine.


Horwitz, Sari. “The Painful Price of Aging in Prison” The Washington Post. Retrieved on May 8, 2015.

Photo Credit: (Kahn, Nikki)

Improving Primary Care by Addressing Trauma



“Understanding the link between trauma and health is an epiphany for clinicians. Many of us have spent years struggling to help our patients improve their health but did not realize that there was a missing ingredient in our model of care. Trauma affects health not only through psychological and behavioral factors, but also biologically, through neuroendocrine and inflammatory changes in response to trauma. By understanding the central role that trauma plays in illness, we can use this new model to reengineer clinical practice around trauma-informed principles to better serve our patients and save lives,” said Machtinger.

” ‘In our clinic where we treat women with HIV, we are able to deliver lifesaving anti-HIV medications, but we still lose patients far too often. Looking back over the last ten years, only 16 percent of our patient deaths were due to HIV/AIDS. Most deaths were due to events such as depression, suicide, murder, drug overdoses and lung diseases that are directly related to adult and childhood experiences of trauma. We also realized that trauma is having a devastating impact on the health of a broad spectrum of the U.S. population, regardless of someone’s HIV status. We need a new model of care that addresses this key social determinate of health,’ said the paper’s lead author, Edward L. Machtinger, MD, director of the Women’s HIV Program at UCSF.”

“In the trauma-informed primary care model, the healthcare team routinely inquires about trauma, ideally in the context of an ongoing provider-patient relationship. Patients are educated about the ways that trauma affects health. Screening includes assessment for recent trauma including intimate partner violence, lifetime trauma, and/or the emotional and physical consequences of trauma such as depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use and chronic pain.”

Read the full article here:

University of California, San Francisco. “Improving primary care by addressing trauma.” Medical Express, May 6, 2015

Photo Credit: Mimozaveliu. “The children of Kosovo-Sorrow and hope 3.” Wikimedia Commons, 14 February 2013

An Open Discussion On Minority Health and Human Trafficking

By: Charmaine Santos


Minority Health Month is observed every April in the United States in order to raise community awareness on the issues around health disparities among ethnic and racial minorities. The commemorated month of April dates back to the leadership from Dr. Booker T. Washington in 1915. Since then, reports such as the Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Black and Minority Health written by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has defined minorities to be Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asian/Pacific Islanders. Reports like these describe the unequal health and health care experience of ethnic and racial minorities in the United States.

Every January Americans celebrate the anniversary of the enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation as well as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. The Federal Strategic Action Plan on Services to Victims of Human Trafficking in the United States was released last year and calls for the “coordination, collaboration, and capacity of victim services across government and with non-public partners” (Rollins). The majority of victims in the United States are people of color. Sex trafficking victims whose race was known, was confirmed by a 2013 Department of Justice report: 40 percent were Black, 26 percent were White, 23 percent were Hispanic, 4 percent were Asian, and 6 percent were other. For confirmed labor trafficking victims, 56 percent were Hispanic, 18 percent were other, 15 percent were Asian, 10 percent were Black, and 2 percent were White.

Linking the problems of human trafficking and minority health, however, starts with an open discussion surrounding the social circumstances of health (where people grow up, live, etc.) that impact victim demographics and underserved populations. We are starting to view human trafficking not as just a law enforcement issue, but as a public health problem, which promotes the exchange of ideas and best practices in the minority health field.

Actions we can do to help combat minority health and human trafficking could be to amplify messages during ethnic and racial awareness months and to also research the basics of minority health and human trafficking. In addition, we need to ensure that systems are implementing National CLAS Standards (Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care) so all individuals receive appropriate care. To progress and induce social change, we must work together by increasing our knowledge between minority health and human trafficking and use that expertise to plan and implement possible solutions.

Charmaine Santos is a sophomore at the University of San Francisco pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Biology as well as minors in Chemistry and Health Studies. She volunteers alongside UCSF medical students at a student-run homeless clinic in San Francisco and is also an active volunteer with Operation Access. Charmaine is also a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine.



Rollins, Rochelle. (2015, April 21). “Bridging Minority Health and Human Trafficking.” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved May 2, 2015 from


Photo Credit: (Reuters)



Adverse Childhood Experiences and Health: Heart Disease, Lung Cancer, Depression


By: Kristine Alarcon

On the TEDMED stage, Dr. Nadine Burke Harris quoted Dr. Robert Block saying, “Adverse childhood experiences are the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation today.”

Dr. Harris’s career as a pediatrician changed once she discovered research conducted by Dr. Vince Felitti and Dr. Bob Anda called the “Adverse Childhood Experience Study.” The research focused on ACEs, which are adverse childhood experiences. ACEs include domestic violence, parental mental illness, parental separation, neglect (physically, emotionally, or sexually), or physical, emotional, and/or sexual abuse.

The 17,500 adults were each given a point for each traumatic experience and points were added up to create their ACE sore. The participants’ health outcomes were then studied and correlated with the ACE scores. Dr. Harris was surprised that ACEs were so common as there were at least 67% of the research pool that experienced one ACE and 12.6% who experienced four or more ACEs. Those who scored four or more, in comparison to those with an ACE score of zero, were more than twice as likely to develop chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), had twice the risk of hepatitis, quadruple the risk of depression, and twelve times as likely to be suicidal. For those who had an ACE score of seven or more, they had triple the risk of lung cancer and were more than three times as likely to develop the leading cause of death in the United States, ischemic heart disease.

This is not just a problem in poor and underserved areas but everyone can be affected. The ACE study involved college educated people and Caucasians. Anyone can be affected by the overactive and constant stress responses that are caused by the adverse childhood experiences. It is especially important to treat the issue in the youth. Their immune systems, hormonal system, DNA processing, and brain formation and functioning can be impaired by the stress.

One step that Dr. Harris has started to drive the movement to bring attention to ACEs is by opening the Center for Youth Wellness in San Francisco, CA. There, she can provide preventative measures and even treat and heal the stress and impacts associated with ACEs. Some methods to do so are with holistic interventions, mental health care, home visits, and much more.

Kristine Alarcon is a senior at the University of San Francisco working towards a Bachelors of Science in Biology. She is a Social Media Assistant at Cancer InCytes Magazine.


Oran, Nicole. “Childhood trauma triples chances of heart disease and lung cancer in adulthood.” MedCity News.  Date Accessed, 1 May 2015.

Photo Credit: (TEDMED)