Contact 5 Investigates: Hidden Dangers of Nail Salons

What to look for while getting pedicure, manicure

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - A finger--amputated. Skin and tissue scraped down to the bone. Both are cases of mycobacterium infections. Both, came from nail salons right here in Florida.

"None of these infections needs to happen," Nancy King said. King is national salon educator and serves as a witness expert about nail salon sanitation.

The Contact 5 Investigators went undercover and searched state inspection reports, tracking safety and sanitation problems inside nail salons for years. We've learned, Florida's track-record isn't good. And you're about to find out, one of our state's top executives-who once was working to expose the problem, suddenly isn't talking about it.

"I was great one day, the next day I couldn't walk," Jennifer Witt said. She picked up a virulent infection in her left leg six years ago. "I woke up with cellulitis and I couldn't bare any weight on my leg at all," she said.

A doctor biopsied what Jennifer thought was an in-grown hair on her shin. "Immediately the first question she asked was: How often do you get pedicures? I thought to myself... What does that have to do with anything?"

Jennifer picked up a mycobacterium infection from a pedicure tub.


Click here to verify licensing information for a nail salon in Florida, including any complaints and citations.

"She called me immediately and said, choose your hospital, you are having surgery today," Witt said.

All of Jennifer's skin and muscle on her shin had to be cut out, but it didn't end there. Skin had to be removed from under her arm and transferred to her wound.

"I was in my early 30s," Jennifer said. "We all like to wear dresses and go to the beach. All that just stopped."

Dr. Anthony Dardano was Jennifer's surgeon. "I'm not saying all salons are dangerous," he said. "Some do a very good job of making sure their instruments and their tubs are clean."

But when they don't, sometime the worst can happen.

"I was mortified -- what do you mean I'm going to lose my finger," Greenberg said. "I had a manicure, it's infected, do something."

After 11 surgeries, half of Greenberg's finger had to be amputated.

"Salon services don't need to be dangerous," King said. "Florida needs some changes because there are a lot more infections here because of the weather than other states. It's in the top five for pedicure infections."

The contact 5 investigators also found, when it comes to nail tech training hours, Florida ranks near the bottom of the list. It ranks 45th out of the 50 states.


For the last six months, the investigators have gone undercover and searched citation records for dozens of salons in our area. Time again inspectors cited things like: "not cleaning pedicure spas correctly" or dirty "buffers and nail files" found in drawers.

Click here to verify licensing information for a nail salon in Florida, including any complaints and citations.

Inside a salon in Royal Palm Beach, the state found repeated violations, yet the doors remain open to the public, as long as the salon owner pays a series fines.

"We need to come into the 21st century with our statutes and regulations in this industry," Jennifer Carroll told the Contact 5 Investigators six years ago. Then, Carroll was a representative from Jacksonville and sponsored legislation to crack down on dirty salons.

Back then, her bill flew through the House and Senate. But, then Florida Governor Charlie Crist shot down Carroll's bill in a line item veto. Six years ago, we drove to Tallahassee  to ask him why.

He admitted he didn't talk to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulations. "I didn't talk to the bureaucrats, I talked to the people in the field," Christ said. "I travel the state often and I wanted their opinions of what's going on, and that's who I work for."

"Well I tell you what," Carroll told us when we informed her about Christ's response. "He needs to come and talk to the people I'm talking to because clearly he is not talking to the right people. This issue came from citizens who were personally injured in the industry."

Fast forward six years, and Carroll is now your Lt. Governor, one step from the highest office in the state.

Click here to see what the requirements for nail technicians are in each state.

For six weeks we tried calling and emailing her, asking for an update with the Lt. Governor. We even offered to fly to Tallahassee, agreeing to meet anytime anywhere the Lt. Governor would see us.

Dr. Dardano, who just operated on another woman, another infection from a pedicure, said he believes the fix for this problem is easy.

"It's a simple thing, especially when you have the knowledge and backing of the industry and knowledge you have brought in this community to this issue," he said. "It would almost be a no-brainer."

Yet,  the one who was once so passionate pushing for change has suddenly gone silent.

"What are we waiting for?" Witt asks. "This was six years ago, and nothing has passed? What happened to the momentum? It was vetoed,

she was mad, she made a pledge, so where are we now? What's taking so long?  Because these infections are happening more and more. What is it going to take? For someone to lose a leg?"

Click here to verify licensing information for a nail salon in Florida, including any complaints and citations.

Click here to contact your lawmakers about this issue.

Investigative Producer Lynn Walsh contributed to this story.

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