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California bill aims to protect fashion models from ‘dangerous standards of thinness’

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Photo: samaro/iStockphoto

Sacramento, CA – Legislation recently proposed in California would create health standards intended to help prevent the hiring of fashion models who are too thin.

State bill AB 2539 – introduced by assembly member Marc Levine (D-Marin County) on Feb. 19 – would require modeling agencies to obtain doctor certification stating a model is healthy before hiring the model.

Models have a higher risk of developing eating disorders and other health issues as they try to stay thin due to fashion industry demands, according to the bill. The legislation may be heard in committee March 22.

The bill also would require the following:

  • The California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board and the State Department of Public Health must adopt health standards for models. The standards would require models to undergo at least three medical visits per year, get a nutrition consultation from a qualified professional, and possible medical testing.
  • Modeling agencies must be licensed by the California Labor Commissioner.
  • Models must be classified as employees of modeling agencies.
  • Modeling agencies would be required to maintain records and could be fined if they employ models who do not have an up-to-date doctor’s certificate.

“The evidence of eating disorders in the modeling industry is alarming. AB 2539 will make sure that models are not enduring physical harm as a workplace prerequisite,” Levine said in a press release. “This is a societal problem as unhealthy models have become role models for young people. As California often leads the nation and the world, this bill will help assure that our children will see healthy images on magazines and fashion websites.”

Health experts have urged federal OSHA to regulate the fashion industry to prevent the hiring of underweight models. An editorial published Dec. 21 in the American Journal of Public Health stated that forbidding “Paris thin” models from working at fashion shows and photo shoots would help curb serious health issues.

One of the editorial authors, S. Bryn Austin, professor at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Boston Children’s Hospital, said in the release that “AB 2539 sends a powerful message that Californians are no longer willing to just sit on the sidelines as the health and safety of professional models – many of them still young girls – are jeopardized by the industry’s inhumane and dangerous standards of thinness.”

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