Chemicals bombard us from all directions in our daily life. They are in our food, our mattresses and our clothes. They are in the water we drink and the air we breathe. Consequently, it is not unreasonable to ask, “Is nail polish toxic?”
In a study conducted by Duke University and the public health advocacy organization Environmental Working Group (EWG), scientists found that nail polish leaches a toxic metabolite of the chemical triphenyl phosphate (TPHP).
What is TPHP?
The parent chemical of TPHP is a compound that acts as a plasticizer and flame retardant. As a result of its plasticizing capabilities, many brand-name cosmetics producers use TPHP to help increase nail polish flexibility and durability.
Unfortunately, TPHP is leaching into every single person that uses nail polish. The study out of Duke showed that TPHP urine concentration levels are seven fold after ten to fourteen hours following application.
“It is possible that TPHP is now being used in nail polish as a replacement for phthalates, which also have endocrine-disrupting properties and are toxic to the reproductive system,” said Heather Stapleton, Ph.D., associate professor at Duke University and principal investigator of the Duke-EWG study. “However, it’s not clear that TPHP is the better alternative. There is growing evidence suggesting that TPHP may affect hormone regulation, metabolism, reproduction and development.”
Consequences of TPHP
“It is very troubling that nail polish being marketed to women and teenage girls contains a suspected endocrine disruptor,” said Johanna Congleton, Ph.D., MSPH, a senior scientist at EWG and co-author of the Duke-EWG study. “It is even more troubling to learn that their bodies absorb this chemical relatively quickly after they apply a coat of polish.”
Although there are many nail polish brands containing TPHP (just look at the image below), you can still find safer options. Whether or not these products perform as well as the main stream brands will be up to you to decide. For a full list of non-toxic nail polishes check out EWG’s skin deep online database. Furthermore, this database is an excellent resource for all personal care products, offering data about their safety.
Image source: http://www.ewg.org/research/nailed
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