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At Belle Elan Salon we don’t believe in, or use, “Spa Chairs” due to theiralarming history of causing infections, skin irritations, and allergies. Spa Chairs and whirlpool type foot baths are a breeding ground for Microbacterium Fortuitum bacteria that cause boils and scarring on thelegs. This is why in 2001 The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta Georgia issued a warning against them. The truth is out there - and here it is!
If you find yourself sitting in a spa chair somewhere, just ask yourself this question ... "Do I feel lucky today? Well, do I?"
We only use the award winning FOOTSIE heatedFootbath Tubs fitted with a FOOTSIE Disposable Tub Liner that is thrown away after every warm soothing soak. This is the cleanest, safest, and most sanitary way for you to enjoy your pedicure.
State and federal regulators and health officials are moving to protect salon customers from dirty footbaths that can harbor dangerous bacteria, which a lawsuit alleges led to the death of a Sunnyvale woman who became infected after a whirlpool pedicure.
Scores of other salon customers have been infected in outbreaks in Northern California and elsewhere, state consumer officials say.
The dead woman's mother last week sued a Mountain View nail salon that she blames for her daughter's year-long battle against an infection associated with the aggressive bacteria transmittable through foot spas. The lawsuit is the first of its kind in the state.
A state inspection of Top Hair and Nails on Wednesday found nearly a dozen violations, ranging from improper disinfection to "dirty foot spa chairs." The state Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, which regulates the salon industry, also launched an inquiry on Wednesday into whether the salon has been properly licensed.
San Jose attorney Anne Miller, who represents Top Hair and Nails, said the salon denies any wrongdoing. "They have never received a complaint about their salon from any other customers."
The salon also disputes the findings of Wednesday's state inspection, Miller said. "Top Hair & Nail endeavors to follow all mandatory cleaning procedures for the salon."
In an indication of the increasing attention being paid to an aggressive and disfiguring strain of bacteria that has struck nail salons in the last six years, a hearing will be held today on emergency legislation by Leland Yee, D-San Francisco. The bill seeks to impose tighter controls and tougher penalties on salons that violate state regulations.
States around the country have started adopting stricter regulations on cleaning whirlpool pedicure footbaths after a death in Texas and outbreaks of mycobacteria and staph infections in numerous other states. In California, health officials over the last two years have investigated outbreaks in Santa Cruz, Santa Clara and Contra Costa counties.
This fall, the federal Environmental Protection Agency, with the Centers for Disease Control, plans to issue a set of recommendations to consumers as well as salon owners and operators. The EPA regulates disinfectants.
The recommendations will suggest ways "to prevent pedicure foot spa-associated nail infections,'' said EPA spokesperson Enesta Jones.
Diana Mears of Iowa filed the wrongful death lawsuit on Aug. 3 in Santa Clara County Superior Court on behalf of her daughter, Jessica. The suit says Top Hair and Nails failed to follow basic hygiene practices when its employees gave Jessica Mears a pedicure on Nov. 24, 2004.
The result, according to the suit, was an ugly 4-by-6-inch lesion on her left calf, diagnosed as a mycobacterium fortuitum infection.
Mears, who worked in biotech as an executive assistant, died on June 20 in El Camino Hospital in Mountain View. She was 43.
Mears had visited the salon as a birthday treat, said her cousin, Geri Nave. "If she had three pedicures in a year, it was a lot,'' Nave said.
About a week after the salon visit, Mears noticed a bump on her leg, said family attorney Robert Bohn Jr.
What she initially took for a bug bite grew and grew, Bohn said. Antibiotics didn't cure the infection, and neither did surgical removal of the dying flesh, which was necessary to prevent gangrene.
Salon attorney Miller said that Jessica Mears had a long and complicated medical history with lupus, a chronic disease that impairs the immune system.
"She had been hospitalized on numerous occasions prior to the pedicure for treatment of lupus and other debilitating diseases," Miller said. "She was quite ill for many years. Although her death is unfortunate, there is simply no known medical evidence that the pedicure she received at my clients' salon played any role in her death."
Bohn acknowledged that the lupus made Jessica Mears more susceptible to infections.
"But her health didn't take a major dive until she had this infection on her leg," Bohn said.
The Santa Clara County Coroner never performed an autopsy, according to Bohn, and Jessica Mears' remains have been sent to Texas for burial by her family.
Diana Mears, the dead woman's mother, could not be reached for comment.
Top Hair and Nails -- tucked in a pink stucco strip mall on Middlefield Road that also houses a coffee shop and a dentist's office -- was open for business Wednesday.
Only one customer -- Ronald White of San Francisco -- was in the Mountain View salon during the lunch hour.
"I've been coming here for four years, and I've never had a problem," said White, 48, as he reclined during a pedicure. "This is a very clean shop."
White, who commutes to San Jose for work, said he heard about the lawsuit on a radio newscast and came in Wednesday to show support for the salon owners.
"I believe in Vanessa," White said, referring to Trang Van, who goes by Vanessa and owns the salon with her husband, Than Phan.
Looking at a row of empty hair dresser chairs and pedicure recliners, Trang Van said business had slacked off since news of the lawsuit emerged.
"That's why today it's slow," she said. "It hurts my business because people are scared." Some customers had called to voice support and promised to continue their patronage, Trang Van said.
"They said, 'Don't worry,' " Trang Van said.
In recent years, three bacterial outbreaks were reported to the state Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, board spokesman Kevin Flanagan said.
The first occurred in 2000 in Santa Cruz County. Santa Clara County was hit in 2004, and in 2005, Contra Costa County experienced an outbreak.
The Santa Clara County incidents involved 143 customers and 33 salons. Top Hair and Nails was not among those salons.
After the 2000 outbreak, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention swabbed 30 footbaths in 18 nail salons from five California counties and found mycobacteria in 97 percent of them.
"The 2000 outbreak might have been a warning of what can happen again if this emerging infection is not adequately addressed," the report said.
The state Board of Barbering and Cosmetology, which licenses 290,000 manicurists and cosmetologists in California, heeded that warning and adopted new regulations in May 2001, requiring nail salons to follow more specific cleaning and disinfection procedures.
In 2005, the board created a task force that developed additional foot spa safety regulations -- complete with more detailed instructions on how to clean the spas -- which recently were approved by the board but have not been implemented. They have yet to make their way through public hearings and a state approval process, which could take a year, Flanagan said.
The new regulations would increase fines to $500 per foot spa chair that isn't clean enough, require remedial training of staff and allow the board to put a licensee on probation for up to a year if found in violation of health laws.
While the Mears case is the first known death blamed on a pedicure in California, it's not the first in the nation. Texan Kimberly Kay Jackson, whose heel allegedly was cut with a pumice stone during a pedicure, developed a staph infection wound that wouldn't heal. She died in February of a heart attack triggered by staph.
Meanwhile, consumers should learn how to protect themselves, said Flanagan of the barbering and cosmetology board.
"It's a lot like going to a restaurant," he said. "If the place looks dirty, get out."
Thursday's hearing will cover a legislative proposal to establish minimum safety standards for pedicure equipment and accountability procedures.
"This bill is a good first step, but the one piece of the bill that we wish was in it was a warning to consumers," said Adam Keigwin, a spokesman for Yee.
"If a salon is found in violation, we think a sign should be posted by the door. Consumers should not assume that just because they may be paying $100 for their pedicure that it is safe. And they should not assume that just because a place charges less, that it is not safe. Most salons are doing the right thing. But some, both high-priced and less expensive ones, are not.''