Putting on the poison

May 14, 2015 -- In these climes, we women usually wear open shoes, and so many of us sport nail polish on our toes, not just our fingers.  In fact, I think nail polish is more frequently found on toes than on fingers around here.

I rarely use nail polish, because the thought of putting those harsh chemicals on my person repulses me.  In the wake of the recent exposé regarding the plight of nail salon workers, I thought I’d check into the facts.  How well founded is my repulsion, I wonder?


My research tells me that in 2006, some people began to protest against the “toxic trio” of chemicals often found in nail polish:

  •       Formaldehyde
  •       Toluene
  •       Dibutyl phthalate


Formaldehyde is a carcinogen and, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), it can cause “difficulty breathing, including coughing, asthma-like attacks, and wheezing; allergic reactions; irritated eyes, skin, and throat.”

OSHA also asserts that toluene can harm a fetus as well as the liver and kidneys, and can cause “dry or cracked skin; headaches, dizziness, and numbness; irritated eyes, nose, throat, and lungs.”  The Food and Drug Administration has established that there are “safe concentrations” of toluene at 50 percent or less.  But the salon workers who have higher exposure to toluene vapors may be at risk.

Long-term exposure to high concentrations of dibutyl phthalate (DBP) may cause “serious effects,” according to OSHA, and may also cause nausea and irritation of the eyes, skin, nose, mouth, and throat.  As with many toxic substances, children may be more susceptible to the dangers DBP presents.  Pediatricians now think that DBP can cause developmental problems.  Girls who chew on their polished fingernails could be in trouble.  High concentrations of DBP can also disrupt reproductive hormones.  The use of phthalates in the beauty industry has been banned by the European Union, according to www.livestrong.com .
No need for nail polish here.


I wonder how often the “pollen allergies” my friends complain about are really irritations caused by their serial use of nail polish?

Since the 2006 outcry, many nail polish manufacturers claim to have voluntarily eliminated the toxic trio from their products, but the state of California didn’t trust them.  That state’s toxic substances control department tested the products and accused some of the companies of simply changing their labels without changing their ways.

There is an Environmental Working Group (EWG) searchable database that allows you to find relatively “safe” brands of nail polish.  The web site for that is http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse/nail_polish/.  But I don’t fully trust corporations, and so I wonder how frequently they might change their formulas, and how often does the government check up on them?

There may be many pretty toes in paradise, but are they healthy?

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