Californians: Help Ban Nail-Care Products That Can Cause Pregnancy Complications


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Regulators in California are taking steps to bar the use of chemicals found in cosmetic nail products linked to pregnancy concerns and respiratory problems.

In February, the state (39.1% Latino) Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) proposed deeming toluene-based products under “priority” status, which requires manufacturers to phase out or find alternatives to brands containing the substance.

Latinos, who already face chemical exposure in the workplace, in the foods they buy, and in other products on the market, should be aware of other potential risk.

The DTSC is currently taking online public comments on toluene-based, nail-care items.

UPDATE: The DTSC has extended the public comment period until April 1, 2019!

Submit a Comment for Safe Nail Products!

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Copy the Salud America! model comment below (and add a personal story or reflection).

Consumers should not fear for their wellbeing because of products sold on the market. Studies have shown that some chemicals found in nail-care products, such as toluene, can cause major health issues, even pregnancy complications. It is not right that people who work in nail salons run the risk of developing these problems while just trying to earn a living. I urge California regulators to follow the lead of other countries, such as those in the European Union, who have banned products that contain these toxic chemicals. We must protect Latino as well as all consumers and laborers from unnecessary harm by not allowing toluene to be sold in the marketplace.

  1. Visit DTSC’s comments website and follow the instructions for submitting a comment.
  2. Paste the model comment above in the “Comment” box.
  3. Review your Comment. Click “Next Step.”
  4. Fill out your information. Check the box at the bottom. Click “Submit.”

We will be monitoring comment submissions and report the results.


History of Complications

Some members of the nail-care industry (3% Latino) voluntarily stopped using products containing these harmful solvents due to extreme side effects.nail polish safety California

“The industry has known for a long time that toluene is a problematic chemical in these products,” said Meredith Williams, acting director of DTSC, in a statement. “Responsible manufacturers have moved away from it. We want to make sure that others do the same.”

Van Nguyen, owner of the New York Nail salon, told the San Francisco Chronicle she disposed of all toluene-based brands in 2010—a $1,200 loss—after experiencing two miscarriages, which she attributes to chemical exposure.

A 2012 DTSC report concluded most nail-care products were advertised as safe, actually contained harmful substances. It also found that nail salon laborers experienced nervous system damage, respiratory issues, and complications during pregnancy.

Three years later, a study conducted by Duke University and the Environmental Working Group showed similar findings. It was also discovered 49% of the nail polishes listed in their database contained harmful chemicals, and that some products did not list these chemicals on their label.

Still, the chemical remains unbanned state- or nation-wide. Many countries, including the European Union who banned products that contained more than .1% of toluene.

Steps Toward Regulation

One reason for delay is that legislators want to ensure workers’ safety by also guaranteeing the chemical industry doesn’t move from toluene to an equally harmful chemical.

This prompted the DTSC to take the “Priority Product” route, which would have a two-fold effect.

“It’s important to make sure that any reformulated products are truly safer,” Williams said. “A ‘Priority Product’ listing ensures that manufacturers do a thorough analysis of these alternatives.”

DTSC is accepting public comments through April 1.

Then a report will be submitted to an independent, scientific panel for review.

Moving Forward

If the DTSC’s proposition is adopted, manufacturers will have four years to phase out toluene products from sale in California, according to The Hill.

Despite evidence provided by multiple groups, not everyone is on-board with labeling toluene as an unusable, harmful substance.nail polish safety California

Lisa Powers, a spokeswoman nail polish industry’s Personal Care Products Council, told The San Francisco Chronicle most companies have stopped using these brands from a consumer-demand perspective, not a health concern.

“We phased it out,” Powers said. “Not from any safety issue, but because customers told us they didn’t want it. We believe it’s safe to use.”

While the fate of toluene products is determined, groups such as California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative are working to drive policy change concerning nail salon work conditions.

“We appreciate DTSC driving the development and use of safer chemicals and safer nail products starting with toluene,” said Catherine Porter, policy director for the collaborative, in the DTSC press release. “We hope nail salons across California become healthier places to work as research on safer alternative chemicals in nail products continues.”


Editor’s Note: This article is part of a collaboration between Salud America! and the Hoffman Toxicant-Induced Loss of Tolerance (TILT) program at UT Health- San Antonio. To find out if you are TILTed due to exposure to everyday foods, chemicals, or drugs, take a self-assessment or learn more about TILT.

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