Nail Polish Can Cause Cancer

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Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), a chemical used to keep nail polish from chipping, has been connected to cancer leaving the cosmetics industry in a heavy debate over whether to continue use of the ingredient. Environmental groups are calling for a ban on DBP in the United States, and some big name companies such as Estee Lauder have preemptively removed the chemical from their products, but other brands such as OPI, Essie and Sally Hansen continue to use it. While the FDA must approve nail polishes before they can be sold, there are no laws that requirecompaniesto prove their products are safe first.

The European Union banned the use of DBP in 2004, forcing OPI to remove the chemical from its products sold there, but the company reports it has no plans to do so in theUnited States. They say there is no definitive proof that the ingredient is harmful, and that the level in their products is low enough to pose no health risk. Spokespeople added that most exposure comes from inhalation rather than cuticle or nail contact.

Lauren Sucher, spokeswoman for the Environmental Working Group, noted that products are usually only tested for acute and immediate reactions before they are put on the market; long-term health concerns such as cancer or reproductive toxicity are rarely, if ever, tested.

A September 2000 study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that there was DBP in every person they tested, with the highest levels detected in women aged 20 to 40. The CDC hypothesized that the exposure might be fromcosmetics, although people can also come into contact with DBP from vinyl shower curtains or plastic children’s toys.

The report prompted health andenvironmentalgroups to search for products containing DBP. Nail polish was the only product that listed the chemical in the ingredients; a fact the Environmental Working Group published in a November 2000 report entitled Beauty Secrets.

A 2002 report, entitled Not Too Pretty, cited an independent lab that found at least one type of phthalate in face creams, lotions, shampoos, hairsprays, deodorants and fragrances.

Such reports have prompted the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics to call for nail polish manufactures to remove DBP from their products, and sign a pledge to “not usechemicalsthat are known or strongly suspected of causing cancer, mutation or birth defects in their products and to implement substitution plans that replace hazardous materials with safer alternatives in every market they serve.”

The Body Shop, Kiss My Face and California Baby are among the more than 300 companies who signed the pledge as of May 15, and the campaign is working to get the same promise from big names such as Unilever, Avon, L’Oreal, Revlon, and Proctor & Gamble.

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