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New Data Reveals Toxic Chemicals in Nail Products

New Data Reveals Toxic Chemicals in Nail Products

Research underscores the need for stronger regulations over ingredients used in salon products

National women’s health organization, Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), has unearthed new data on the use of toxic chemicals in nail products. The data was culled from the California Safe Cosmetics Database and reveals that at least a dozen toxic chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive harm are being used in nail products.

The California Safe Cosmetics Database requires companies to report ingredients in their cosmetic products that are considered carcinogens or reproductive toxins under Proposition 65. The California Safe Cosmetics Act (the Act) requires companies that manufacture cosmetics to report any cosmetics products that contain ingredients known or suspected to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.

Click here to review data.

The chemicals reported in nail products include the carcinogens formaldehyde, Cocamide DEA, benzophenone, as well as the reproductive toxins toluene and di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP). There are also a number of different artificial nail products that contain carcinogens and/or reproductive toxins, but companies do not have to disclose this ingredient, and instead hide these specific chemicals from consumers behind the term “trade secrets”.

The data underscores the Food and Drug Administration’s lack of authority when it comes to regulating ingredients in salon products. Currently, the FDA does not require premarket safety testing of ingredients in cosmetics and salon products, and because of a loophole in the law, salon products do not commonly carry a full listing of ingredients. While some ingredients may be listed on a Safety Data Sheet for a product, workers often have very limited knowledge of the chemicals to which they are being exposed. The data from the California Safe Cosmetics Database is one way to provide salon workers with ingredient information that otherwise wouldn’t be accessible.

Nail salon workers, and salon workers in general, are disproportionately impacted by toxic chemicals used in salon products, because they are handling the chemicals for on a daily basis for hours on end. The report, Beauty and its Beast, illustrates that nail salon workers are at greater risk of developing immune disorders such as lupus and primary biliary cirrhosis. Salon workers also experience higher rates of asthma than other professions, and have been shown to have decreased lung function. Sixty percent of salon workers suffer from skin conditions, such as dermatitis, which can be extremely debilitating.

“Salon workers can use protective equipment like nitrile gloves and respirators with organic carbon chemical cartridges, or N95 respirator dust masks to help reduce exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace. Adequate ventilation at work stations can also help,” said Jamie McConnell, director of programs and policy at Women’s Voices for the Earth.

“But the bottom line is many of these chemicals, like the ones reported to California, shouldn’t be in these products in the first place,” said McConnell. “To truly protect the health of salon workers, we need to pass federal legislation that adequately regulates what’s allowed in these products.”

Recent regulations announced in New York by Governor Cuomo, will require a health review of chemical agents to determine whether action is needed on chemicals used in salon products. California has also introduced healthy salon recognition programs to help reduce the use of products that contain toxic chemicals.

“Over the last twenty years, nail salon services have tripled and cosmetology is now the fastest growing profession in California,” said Julia Liou, of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative and Administrator at Asian Health Services. “But while demand grows, regulation continues to lag on the toxic chemicals that end up in beauty and nail products – products that salon workers are consistently exposed. Salon workers are concerned about these harmful chemicals. And, quite simply, federal regulation is failing this growing workforce.”

“State initiatives are definitely a step in the right direction and help to bring attention to the harmful chemicals salon workers encounter on a daily basis,” said McConnell. “This issue, however, is a nationwide problem that needs a federal solution—namely legislation that will require manufacturers to substantiate the ingredients used on salon products.”
Media Contacts:
Alexandra Scranton, Director of Science & Research at Women’s Voices
alexs@womensvoices.org, (406) 543-3747, office

Beth Conway, Communications & Outreach Manager at Women’s Voices
bethc@womensvoices.org, (406) 543-3747, office

Julia Liou, California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative and Administrator at Asian Health Services
jliou@ahschc.org, 310-804-9953

*The California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative & Women’s Voices of the Earth convene the National Healthy Nail & Beauty Salon Alliance

Founded in 1995, Women’s Voices for the Earth amplifies women’s voices to eliminate the toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities. With thousands of members across the United States, WVE changes corporate practices, holds government accountable, and works to ensure a toxic-free future for all. womensvoices.org.

WVE has published several reports and factsheets on salon worker health safety including Glossed Over; Toxic Chemicals in Salon Products: What Stylists Need to Know; The Blowup on Brazilian Blowout and their most recent report, Beauty and Its Beast, which provides a comprehensive review of the unique chemical exposures that salon workers experience and the health impacts they suffer.

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