Questions about the health risks of chemicals in nail polish are gaining new attention, The New York Times
Concerns about potentially risky substances in nail polish were raised in 2006 when public health advocates began a nationwide campaign to raise awareness about three compounds in leading product brands — formaldehyde, a known carcinogen used as a hardening agent, and two materials linked to developmental defects: toluene, to evenly suspend color, and the plasticizer dibutyl phthalate, or DBP, to add flexibility and sheen.
In response to the campaign, many companies voluntarily removed these compounds from their products, but a 2012 investigation by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control found some simply changed their labels but continued using them. In addition, the European Union banned the use of DBP in cosmetics, but the Food and Drug Administration has not taken any regulatory action.
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Janet Nudelman, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, an advocacy group, said the concern is that some people may be at risk from being exposed to such chemicals, but acknowledges most products are safe for consumers.
"No one is saying that occasional application of nail polish will cause long-term health consequences," she told The Times. But some researchers have suggested there may be concerns for those who work in nail salons and children, who are particularly susceptible to phthalates like DBP that pose developmental risks.
In fact, some pediatricians now warn against letting young girls, especially those young enough to chew on their fingers, wear polish.
Nudelman recommends that consumers at least investigate the safest brands. The Environmental Working Group maintains a searchable cosmetics database at www.ewg.org/skindeep
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