By The Editors
In a previous post, we talked about the toxic substances that may be present in lipstick. Now, let’s take a look at nail polish.
Nail polish may contain toxic chemicals potentially able to cause poisoning and Painter Syndrome. According to MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the poisonous ingredients that may be found in nail polish are toluene, butyl acetate, ethyl acetate, and dibutyl phthalate (this list may not be all-inclusive). MedlinePlus states that: “Swallowing or breathing in (inhaling) nail polish may lead to nail polish poisoning. Some people intentionally sniff nail polish to become intoxicated (drunk) by the fumes. Over time these people, as well as those working in poorly ventilated nail salons, can develop a condition known as Painter Syndrome. This is a permanent condition that causes walking problems, speech problems, and memory loss. Painter Syndrome may also be called organic solvent syndrome, psychoorganic syndrome, and chronic solvent encephalopathy (CSE). CSE can also cause nonspecific symptoms, such as headache, fatigue, mood disturbances, sleep disorders, and possible behavioral changes.”
In 2012, the Pollution Prevention Branch of the Department of Toxic Substances Control for the California Environmental Protection Agency released the results of a study in which several products (mostly nail color or lacquer) were tested for the presence of the toxic trio chemicals – toluene, dibutyl phthalate, and formaldehyde. The results of the study indicated that some nail polishes and other products used at salons, even those labeled toxin-free or 3-free, may contain high levels of toxic chemicals. The products (mostly nail color or lacquer) were tested for the toxic trio chemicals – toluene, dibutyl phthalate, and formaldehyde.
A few years ago, most mainstream nail polish brands changed up their formulas and labeled their nail polish as “3-Free”. Some brands now label their polish as “5-free”. Five-free nail polish should be free of toluene, dibutyl phthalate, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin and camphor. Notice that even the 5-free formula does not exclude butyl acetate and ethyl acetate, two of the toxic chemicals listed by MedlinePlus as poisonous and able to cause Painter Syndrome.
There is something else to think about: nail polish tossed into the trash ends up in landfills and, from there, its content of toxic chemicals can reach both soil and groundwater.
Be aware that nail polish is included in many household hazardous products lists and should be taken to household hazardous waste facilities for disposal.