Toxins Found in “Toxin-Free” Nail Polish Products: Report

California health officials have released a study that identifies a number of toxic substances that are used in supposedly toxin-free nail polish products. 

The report (PDF) was published by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), finding that many of the chemicals found in the nail polishes sampled could present a health risk to the state’s 121,000 nail salon workers.

Samples were taken from 25 different nail polish products, looking specifically for dibutyl phthalate (DBP), toluene and formaldehyde, which are known as the “toxic-trio” and believed to represent the biggest threat to nail salon workers.

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Of the 25 products, 12 claimed to be free of at least one of the three chemicals, and seven claimed to be free of all three. That left 13 traditional products that did not claim to be free of any of the three chemicals.

Toluene was the most frequently detected of the three chemicals, and the researchers found that 10 of the 12 products that claimed to be toluene free were not. Five of the seven products that claimed to be free of all three toxic chemicals failed to live up to that claim as well.

In addition to the three toxins of primary concern, researchers detected a number of chemicals whose effects on human physiology and the environment are not known.

The DTSC recommended that manufacturers disclose all nail product chemicals and called for more outreach, training and education of nail salon owners and workers.

Part of the problem, the state found, was that up to 80% of the nail salon workers were female Vietnamese immigrants who often do not have English as a first language. This limits their ability to understand health risk warnings and literature meant to benefit their safety.


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