Calif. Finds Toxins in ’Nontoxic’ Nail Polishes
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Some nail polishes commonly found in California salons and advertised as free of a so-called "toxic trio" of chemicals actually have high levels of agents linked to birth defects, state regulators said Tuesday.
A Department of Toxic Substances Control report determined that the mislabeled nail products have the potential to harm thousands of workers in more than 48,000 nail salons in California, and their customers.
The use of the three chemicals in nail products is legal if properly labeled. But agency officials said the false claims may violate a state law that requires disclosure of harmful chemicals in consumer products. The state attorney general could decide whether the companies will face legal action, which can include fines and an order to attach warning labels.
Investigators randomly chose 25 brands of polishes that are available only at nail salons, including a number of products claiming to be free of the chemicals toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and formaldehyde, which are known as the toxic trio. Regulators said exposure to large amounts of the chemicals has been linked to developmental problems, asthma and other illnesses.
Investigators found that 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.
The agency said it did not have enough data to accurately estimate how many people were being exposed to the chemicals through the products.
"We know there are exposures at salons, both to workers and customers, and we’re concerned about potential harm," said Karl Palmer, the DTSC’s pollution prevention performance manager who oversaw the report.
"Our strategy first and foremost is to shed light on the reality of what’s in these products and put this information out to everyone."
Among the products tested that the state says were mislabeled were: 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. The polishes are not sold in retail stores.
At ZaZa, a nail salon near San Francisco’s waterfront ballpark, customers said they were shocked by news of the misleading labels. The salon, which does not carry any of the mislabeled brands, said it uses products labeled free of the toxic trio and animal products.
"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.
The DTSC said all three chemicals are linked to chronic health conditions when inhaled, and that the 121,000 licensed nail care technicians who work in the salons, many of them young Asian-American women, are most at risk. Two of the three chemicals tested on humans and animals have shown links to developmental problems, while DBP has only been tested on animals.
The agency said the salons are often poorly ventilated, leading to exposure to a number of harmful chemicals.
Loann Tran, co-owner of Happy Nails in Salinas, Calif., said she can only control certain elements of workplace safety for the handful of workers and customers in her salon: better ventilation and equipment sterilization. She cannot force manufacturers to accurately label products, she said, and hopes the report will help.