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Is Your Nail Polish Toxic?

Researchers Find Toxins in Nail Polish Labeled 'Toxin-Free'; Industry Says Report Lacks Perspective

No Label, But Toxin-Free

Products without toxin-free labels often were still free of some or all of the chemicals, the researchers found. Of the 13 products that did not have a label, five did not have any of the three chemicals. One was a polish thinner, but the brand was not noted in the report.

The other four were:

  • OPI Birthday Babe nail lacquer
  • Cali nail polish thinner
  • Essie Starter Wife 596 nail lacquer
  • Out the Door topcoat

Toxins In Nail Polish: Story Behind the Research

The new report will provide information to the San Francisco Department of Environment's voluntary recognition program for nail salons that choose safer products, Lang says.

That program was created after the city and county of San Francisco passed an ordinance in late 2010.

California has more than 48,000 nail salons.

The California Department of Toxic Substances Control has been collaborating with the Department of Environment.

To be recognized as a safer salon, nail salons must use products free of the toxic trio and other chemicals.

More Industry Input

The Nail Manufacturers Council doesn't approve of inaccurate labels, Masterson tells WebMD.

In a statement, the council said that ''none of the levels described in the DTSC report present a significant health or safety risk."

The levels of toluene and DBP found in the products are generally at levels considered safe by the FDA and the Expert Panel of the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), according to the statement.

CIR was set up by industry with support from the FDA.

The trend, Masterson tells WebMD, is a move away from all three of the chemicals. "Voluntarily, most of the manufacturers have moved away from the three toxic ingredients they reference," he says.

Toxins in Nail Products: Other Voices

"The bottom-line finding is we can't trust the labels on some of these nail salon products that are claiming to be free of these toxic chemicals," says Rebecca Sutton, PhD, senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group. She reviewed the report.

"These chemicals have well-established health concerns," she says. "Obviously, there is greater danger for workers, who are exposed so much longer, day in and day out."

However, "this is not a minor concern for consumers," she says. Other products, such as cleaning supplies, also contain the chemicals, she says. Exposure can accumulate.

Her advice for consumers? "I might say go easy on the nail polish. Go to the salon less often." Pregnant women might consider skipping salon visits, she says.

Write the nail product manufacturers, says Julia Liou, MPH, co-founder of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative and a public health administrator of Asian Health Services. Ask them to remove toxic chemicals, she says.

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