Indoor Air Quality in Nail Salons

Developments in State Policy

District of Columbia


Citation: District of Columbia Municipal Code, Title 25E

Available: Here 


Summary:  In December 2021, the District of Columbia Department of Health adopted new regulations that apply to nail salons licensed by the D.C. Board of Barber and Cosmetology  (and “nail work stations” within a licensed cosmetology or personal grooming facility that provides manicure and/or pedicure services). The regulations establish new facility licensing requirements to be administered and enforced by the D.C. Department of Health (DOH). Distinct from the cosmetology business licensing rules administered by the D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), the new DOH regulations were adopted to incorporate new DCRA regulations; establish new operating standards “for the protection of public health and safety,” which incorporate and expand on the IMC provisions; reflect new federal and industry standards; and provide new enforcement mechanisms.

Key Provisions:  The D.C. regulations require that nail salons (and nail workstations) be equipped with “an independent exhaust or mechanical ventilation system at the source capture system to remove fumes and dust from nail stations directly to the exterior of the building.” (Sec. 309.5.) The operating standards include general requirements that mechanical ventilation systems “comply with the most recent versions of the District of Columbia Construction Codes,” which include the 2015 edition of the IMC, and that salons “have sufficient tempered make-up air and exhaust ventilation to keep them free of excessive heat, steam, condensation, vapors, obnoxious odors, some, and fumes.” (Sec. 309.2.) The regulation also sets out specific ventilation requirements, including:

  • Minimum Ventilation Rate. All rooms in a nail salon facility must be provided with at least 8 air changes per hour (and recirculation of air is not permitted). (Sec. 309.4.)
  • Mechanical Ventilation System Standards.  The salon’s ventilation system must have capacity to supply outdoor air flow at a rate of at least the IMC standards for nail salons (based on the rate per person and number of occupants present), which are incorporated directly into the regulation (Table A).
  • Mechanical Exhaust System Standards. The salon must have a mechanical exhaust system that:
    • Includes an independent source capture system exhaust and mechanical ventilation system located at each nail station (Sec. 309.6);
    • has an interlocking exhaust system and light switch “to ensure the exhaust system is fully operational when nail station activities are occurring” (Sec. 309.6);
    • Complies with the IMC provision requiring that manicure and pedicure stations be provided with a source capture system capable of exhausting not less than 50 cfm per station, with exhaust inlets located in accordance with the IMC. (The exhaust rate from such systems may be applied to the facility’s minimum exhaust flow rate only if they are operated continuously during occupancy.) (Table A, footnote g.); and
    • Provides makeup air (Sec. 309.5).
  • Respiratory Protection Equipment. Licensees must ensure that all nail technicians and workstations in the salon are provided with safety equipment in accordance with OSHA respiratory protection program requirements. Equipment must specifically include ventilated manicure tables approved by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health and properly fitted N-95, N-99, or N-100 respirator masks (which must be used while buffing, filing, or using acrylic powder). (Sec. 502.1.)
  • Compliance Dates. As part of an application for a new license, license renewal, or change in ownership or location, a nail salon must submit, among other things, a DCRA salon owner’s license, a current certificate of occupancy issued by DCRA, and a report from the Department of Health showing the facility passed its preoperational inspection for compliance with the new regulation. (Sec. 602.3.) (The Department’s Division of Community Hygiene, which provides regulatory health inspections for nail salons, uses an inspection checklist that includes verification that nail stations are equipped with required ventilation systems.

Applications for a license must be submitted at least 30 days before the expiration of the current license for an existing facility. (Business licenses for nail salons issued by DCRA must be renewed every two years.) Furthermore, under the new regulations, the Department of Health is required to “regulate certain aspects of a [salon] facility's physical structure, operating systems, equipment, devices, fixtures, supplies, or furnishings in use before the effective date of [the regulation] based on the following considerations: (a) [w]hether the physical structure; operating systems, equipment, devices, fixtures, supplies, or furnishings used in a [salon] facility are in good repair or capable of being maintained in a hygienic condition in compliance with this Subtitle; or (b) [t]he existence of a documented agreement with the licensee that the physical structure; operating systems, equipment, devices, fixtures, supplies, or furnishings will be replaced by an agreed upon date.” (Sec. 102.3)


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