New Study: "Nontoxic" Nail Polish Contains Toxic Chemicals

nail polish© Thinkstock

Think your treating your fingernails to some non-toxic TLC? Think again. The latest controversial news to shake up the beauty industry finds that nail polish commonly used in California salons advertised to be free of the "toxic-trio" actually contain chemicals toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and formaldehyde, the Associated Press reports. Go figure.

The Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) report released Tuesday concluded that "when nail care products claim to be free of unsafe chemicals, despite how the label reads, just the opposite is often true."

Use of the "toxic-trio" of chemicals in nail polish is legal if the bottle is labeled properly.

What may cause regulators to step in is not that fact that exposure to these chemicals is associated with cancer, birth defects, asthma, and other chronic health conditions, but rather the fact that "false claims may violate a California state law that requires disclosure of harmful chemicals in consumer products," AP reports. "The state attorney general could decide whether the companies will face legal action, which can include fines and an order to attach warning labels."

nail polish© Jupiterimages

Most at risk of inhaling these chemicals without warning are the 121,000 full-time licensed nail technicians who work in California salons, many of whom are young Asian-American women, not to mention the customers and part-time workers in 48,000 salons across the state. Tina Bui, who has been a manicurist for 17 years in Marin County, California, told AP, via NPR:

Physically, I can tell after eight or ten hours working, the chemicals give you very bad headache and affects you mentally. My eyes itch. My nose itch. But as soon as I walk outside the salon, I feel much better.

"Ultimately we need stronger laws at the federal level that set a bottom line of safety, no matter where you live and work," Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, told TreeHugger. "While the FDA has the responsibility to protect the public by ensuring cosmetics are safe and non-toxic, under current law it doesn’t have the authority to do so." Archer continues, below.

Regulations must include the phase-out of ingredients linked to cancer and reproductive or developmental toxicity; a safety standard that protects workers, babies and other vulnerable populations; full disclosure of ingredients; and FDA authority to recall dangerous products from the market—all of which are elements of the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2011 (H.R.2359).

DTSC recommends manufacturer disclosure of nail product formulations and also education and training of nail salon owners and workers.

The misbranding controversy joins the ranks of a series of controversial issues to emerge from the cosmetic industry: formaldahyde in Brazilian Blowout, high levels of lead in lipstick.

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New Study: "Nontoxic" Nail Polish Contains Toxic Chemicals
Nail polish commonly used in California salons advertised to be free of the "toxic-trio" actually contain toxic chemicals.

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