Californians are ready to claw someone's eyes out after a report from state's Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) found that several nail polishes billing themselves as "toxic free," were, in fact, toxic times three: they contained formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate (DBP), also known as the "toxic trio" of chemicals.
How toxic is the trio?
DBP has been banned outright in nail products in the European Union, which also places strict limits on the amount of formaldehyde and toluene that can be used in polishes. The chemicals have been linked to cancer, asthma, and birth defects when inhaled. Nail salon employees, who have prolonged exposure to the chemicals all day at work, often in poorly ventilated rooms, are, of course, at the greatest risk for potential harm in everyday environments.
To gather data for report, DTSC investigators analyzed 25 brands of polishes. The shades were randomly chosen, with the stipulation that they be found exclusively at nail salons. Here's what the investigators found, via the Associated Press:
"...10 of 12 products that claimed to be free of toluene actually contained it, with four of the products having dangerously high levels. The report also found that five of seven products that claimed to be 'free of the toxic three' included one or more of the agents in significant levels."
It's important to note that use of the "toxic three" chemicals in nail products is allowed under California law, so long as the products' packaging properly discloses the harmful chemicals contained therein. The legal issue here isn't necessarily that nail polishes are made of crazy toxic ingredients—of course they are; have you ever smelled nail polish?—it's that the polish companies failed to own up to that.
As you would hope, the story has produced a lot of fun quotes.
Take for instance, the owner of LeChat Nail Care Products, Newton Luu, whose Dare to Ware lacquer line was found to contain traces of one of the toxic trio, though it was labeled as chemical free. He speculated that the toxins entered the polish through the DTSC's own lab testing – or perhaps through even more nefarious methods:
"We as a manufacturer do not use toluene in our nail polish, or any of those three," Luu said. "Perhaps the polish was contaminated through the lab tests or by some other method."
And then there was the new mother who announces her aversion to "different chemicals" while being interviewed in a freaking nail salon:
"I'm shocked. I'm a mother now, so I try to stay away from different chemicals," said Juanita Navarrete, a 27-year-old from San Leandro who was getting a manicure and pedicure. Navarrete said she relies on labels to make choices in buying products and was happy that the state did random testing of nail polishes.
And, just so you're aware, here's a partial list of the mislabeled polishes: Sation 99 basecoat, Sation 53 red-pink nail color, Dare to Wear nail lacquer, Chelsea 650 Baby's Breath Nail Lacquer, New York Summer Nail Color, Paris Spicy 298 nail lacquer, Sunshine nail lacquer, Cacie Light Free Gel Basecoat, Cacie Sun Protection Topcoat, Golden Girl Topcoat, Nail Art Top-N-Seal and High Gloss Topcoat.
If you recognize one of these names, stop licking your hands immediately.