Does your nail polish cause cancer?

December 12, 2006
Volume 03    |   Issue 50

Most women don't consider nail polish a threat to their health. But it is. Until recently, almost all nail polish contained toxins associated with cancer and birth defects. And many nail salon employees, who work with the toxins regularly, develop asthma, throat, nose, and skin irritation, and dizziness.

Despite all the evidence that the ingredients were causing problems, our "protectors" at the FDA refused to do anything about the chemicals.

Instead, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics took action and pushed cosmetics manufacturers to remove toxic chemicals from cosmetics. Because of them, a number of companies are reformulating their products to remove these toxins.

The ingredient change began last year when the California Safe Cosmetics Act became law and DBP (dibutyl phthalate) was identified as a reproductive toxin in California. This was old news throughout Europe. DBP was banned in cosmetics by the European Union a year earlier.

Now, a few U.S. companies that manufacture nail polish are making products without DBP. Some are even removing toluene and formaldehyde. Del Laboratories, Inc, manufacturer of Sally Hansen brand, OPI Products (used in nail salons), and Orly International, Inc, are three companies that are reformulating their cosmetics. A representative from Sally Hansen said this change was a big concern to them. After all, studies found an association between DBP and reproductive system problems in baby boys.

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Sally Hansen is removing toluene and formaldehyde as well. Other companies don't think this is necessary because they're using such small amounts. But the EPA says that toluene can damage the liver and kidneys. And the U.S. National Toxicology Program says that formaldehyde is a suspected carcinogen. Many toxins accumulate in our bodies, and some of us think that even low levels can contribute to diseases.

Expect other companies to follow Sally Hansen's lead. Meanwhile, you have two choices. Stick to the non-toxic brands, or stop using nail polish (this is especially important when you're pregnant). And don't paint the fingers and toes of little girls unless the nail polish is free from toxins. Their small bodies are still growing, and may be more at risk.

Your voice of reason in Women's Health,

Source:, "nail polishes to become a little safer, 9/7/2006.

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