April 11, 2012 -- If you're a mani-pedi fan, it's disturbing news.
Some nail polishes and other products used at salons and labeled toxin-free may have high levels of toxic chemicals, according to a new California report.
"The labeling does not always reflect the ingredients," says scientist Valetti Lang, acting manager of the Pollution Prevention Branch of the Department of Toxic Substances Control for the California Environmental Protection Agency.
Her team bought 25 nail products from distributors in May 2011. They sent the samples to an independent lab.
The lab tested the products for three chemicals -- dibutyl phthalate, toluene, and formaldehyde -- commonly called the ''toxic trio."
The chemicals have been of concern for their potential health risks, especially to nail salon workers.
In recent years, some nail product makers have removed these chemicals from their products, then labeled them as non-toxic.
"What we found out is that in many of the cases the label was inaccurate," Lang tells WebMD. "And that's really what our message is. We don't know if our samples are representative of the industry."
Some products that did not carry a toxic-free label actually had none of the chemicals in them, the researchers also found.
The report lacks perspective and balance, according to a statement issued by the Professional Beauty Association's Nail Manufacturers Council. "Most of the brands involved are not major brands and also not found in every salon," says spokesman Brad Masterson.
Some of the products tested are also for sale to consumers in beauty supply stores or via the Internet.
Toxins in Nail Polish: A Closer Look
The California scientists tested mostly nail color or lacquer. They also included some top coat, base coat, thinner, nail art, and a top coat-base coat combination.
They were looking for the chemical toluene, a toxin that may cause birth defects and developmental problems in children of pregnant women who have had extended exposure. They also looked for dibutyl phthalate (DBP), which has been linked to birth defects in studies involving lab animals, and formaldehyde, a carcinogen.
The labels on 12 products said they were free of one, two, or all of these chemicals. The other 13 products had no such claims.