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National Healthy Nail Salon Alliance

For Immediate Release

June 2, 2009

Most Nail Polish Makers Report Products Are Now Free of Three Noted Toxic Ingredients
Toxins still lurk in salon air

OAKLAND, Calif. ─ A recent survey of popular nail care product manufacturers conducted by the National Healthy Nail Salon Alliance (the Alliance) showed that 74 percent of the companies surveyed do not use toluene, formaldehyde or dibutyl phthalate in their polish. These three ingredients, nicknamed the “toxic trio,” have been linked to asthma, cancer, and reproductive problems in peer-reviewed studies.

The Alliance sent a letter to 23 nail care companies requesting disclosure of these toxic chemicals in their nail care products. According to the survey results, 17 companies confirmed that their nail polish was “three free,” meaning it does not contain the toxic trio. Two companies, Creative Nail Design and Essie, still use some of the toxic ingredients; and four companies, including Sally Hansen and Yves Saint Laurent, chose not to respond to the survey.

“It’s progress that these nail care companies reported they no longer use the ‘toxic trio’ in their polish formulas,” said Julia Liou, Manager of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative. “Unfortunately, some of the most popular nail polish brands still contain toxic ingredients, which means that women are being exposed to chemicals that are linked to long-term health problems.”

Over the last several years, scientific studies have documented health problems in nail salon workers and daily exposure to chemicals in nail care products. A recent occupational health study on nail salon worker exposure shows that manicurists had levels of dibutyl phthalate (DBP) in their bodies that was two-times higher than that of the general population. DBP has been linked to reproductive problems in baby boys as well as decreased sperm count in adult men. Other studies have found that nail salon workers experience symptoms consistent with solvent exposure such as dizziness, headaches, skin and eye irritation and breathing difficulties.

“Nail salon owners and workers come into contact with nail care products on a daily basis, so they are more vulnerable to the health hazards of toxic chemicals in products,” said Alexandra Scranton, director of science and research at Women’s Voices for the Earth. “This survey provides salon owners, workers, and consumers with the information they need to determine which products can help reduce their exposure to toxic chemicals.”

According to the Alliance, most of the surveyed manufacturers only provided information about their nail polishes, not their full range of products such as nail hardeners or top coats, which have been known to contain formaldehyde.

“While removal of the ‘toxic trio’ should lessen toxic exposure to nail salon workers, more research is needed to ensure that alternative chemicals are safe,” said Nancy Chung, Reproductive Justice Fellow at National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. “And we believe that companies should remove the array of other hazardous ingredients beyond DBP, toluene and formaldehyde from all nail salon products and solvents ─ not just nail polishes.”

This survey is part of a larger effort to improve the health of nail salon workers nationwide, and educate them on the dangers of working with these chemicals. The National Healthy Nail Salon Alliance, which includes the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum and Women’s Voices for the Earth, convened for the first time in April, to discuss health and safety concerns facing nail salon and cosmetology workers and to develop a prioritized research agenda. As part of the Alliance’s campaign to raise awareness among salon customers and workers, people can download a card listing which nail polishes do not contain the “toxic trio” at www.womenandenvironment.org.


The National Healthy Nail Salon Alliance advocates for the improvement of nail salon worker health and safety. For more information, click here.

Jamie Silberberger
Campaign Manager
Women’s Voices for the Earth
phone: 406.543.3747
fax: 406.543.2557