Los Angeles County health officials have called on the state to more vigorously regulate the local adult-film business, acknowledging public health and workplace safety problems in the industry.
The move comes after the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors ordered an investigation by its health department into the industry, which is predominantly based in the San Fernando Valley.
The health department, in a Feb. 27 report, found that the industry poses a health risk to its workers as well as a public health concern to the general population. The report said that although several production companies require HIV tests, examinations for other sexually transmitted diseases "are not mandatory under current heterosexual industry protocols."
Health officials recommended that the Board of Supervisors seek state regulations that would specifically require adult-film actors to use condoms and be tested for a variety of communicable diseases, including HIV and hepatitis.
The review, led by Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke, came on the heels of a Times article that found adult film stars work in an industry that is legal, yet unregulated by local, state or federal agencies that could help prevent exposure to a host of infectious, and sometimes fatal, diseases.
Attorney Paul Cambria, who represents adult-film producers Hustler, Vivid Video and Wicked Pictures, among others, insists that the leading companies do require testing for sexually transmitted diseases among their workers.
"The largest companies in the industry are clearly interested in this issue," Cambria said.
The extent of infection among adult entertainment performers is unknown because no government or regulatory medical agency has consistently tracked the industry.
In tests administered by the Adult Industry Medical HealthCare Foundation clinic to 483 adults between October 2001 and March 2002, 40% tested positive for at least one sexually transmitted disease. The tests, conducted at the industry-backed Sherman Oaks clinic, found nearly 17% had chlamydia, 13% had gonorrhea and 10% had Hepatitis B or C.
The numbers dropped, however, during 2002. From January through October 2002, 7.9% of 353 women and 6.8% of 337 men tested positive for chlamydia. In addition, 2.7% of the 736 people tested for gonorrhea came up positive.
No one tested positive for HIV during either period, according to foundation officials.
In January, the Board of Supervisors instructed the Los Angeles Department of Health Services to look into the matter, and identify the regulatory entity at either the county or state level that should be responsible for oversight of this industry.
Although health officials pointed out that no agency oversees the industry, the report suggested that such oversight falls under the purview of the state Division of Occupational Safety and Health, or Cal/OSHA.
"All of us are now wondering how it is we can have this business flourishing and there can be no regulation of it," Burke said. "We have to evaluate the [health] department's findings and come up with some policy decisions."
The county report points out that two sections of the California labor code regulate exposure to blood-borne pathogens, and require employers to have written plans to protect their workers and provide them with protective equipment applicable to the hazards of the job.
In addition to increased testing, county health officials also recommended that the state monitor whether adult-film companies were complying with current and proposed requirements on health and safety, as well as document and track the test results of adult-film workers.
Dean Fryer, a spokesman for the California Department of Industrial Relations, said Cal/OSHA has not yet been approached by the Los Angeles County health department or the Board of Supervisors.
The codes detailed in the health department's report apply to workers in the adult-film industry, but "new regulations would require either a petition before the standard's board, or the state Legislature would have to write a new law," Fryer said.