Product Liability

Many “toxin-free” nail salon products contain toxic chemicals, California regulators find

 Many toxin free nail salon products contain toxic chemicals, California regulators findFrequent trips to the salon for manicures and pedicures could be hazardous to your health – that’s the bottom line of a new report by California’s Toxic Substances Control (CTSC), which found that several nail polishes and other products commonly used in salons and labeled as “toxin-free” actually have high levels of toxic chemicals.

According to WebMD, a team of investigators from the CTSC’s Pollution Prevention Branch purchased 25 salon products from distributors in May 2011 and sent samples of those products to an independent lab for testing. The objective was to find if any of the products contained one or more of three chemicals known as the “toxic trio:” toluene, a chemical linked to birth defects and developmental problems in children of pregnant women who have had some level of sustained exposure to it; dibutyl phthalate (DBP), another chemical linked to birth defects; and formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.

Most the products tested were nail color or lacquer, with some samples of top coat, thinner, nail art, and a top coat/base coat combination. All of the products were either labeled as free of one or more of the toxins or made no ingredient claims on their labels.

Testing confirmed that “The labeling does not always reflect the ingredients,” as scientist Valetti Lang, acting manager of the Pollution Prevention Branch, told WebMD. “What we found out is that in many of the cases the label was inaccurate,” she added.

The labels on 12 of the products claimed they were free of one, two or all of the toxic chemicals, while the other 13 made no claims about the presence of these chemicals. Fortunately, formaldehyde was not found in any of the samples, but just two of the products that claimed to be free of all three of the toxins actually were. Conversely, of the 13 products without toxin-free labels, five were found to be completely free of all three chemicals.

Exposure to these toxic chemicals doesn’t just put customers at risk, WebMD notes, but it threatens salon workers who come into contact with them on a daily basis. There are 48,000 nail salons in California alone.

Rebecca Sutton, PhD, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, told WebMD the report shows that “we can’t trust the labels on some of these nail salon products that are claiming to be free of these toxic chemicals.”

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

Still, Dr. Sutton warns that “this is not a minor concern for consumers.” Other products not included in this test, such as cleaning supplies, contain the chemicals as well, and repeated exposure can cause them to aculmulate in the body.

For a list of the 25 salon products tested by California regulators, visit WebMD’s article online.