California state regulators work to ban chemical found in nail polish

California state regulators work to ban chemical found in nail polish
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State regulators in California announced Friday plans to ban a chemical found in nail polishes that they say is dangerous.

The solvent, known as toluene, was labeled a “priority product” for regulation in the state, The San Francisco Chronicle reported.  

The state’s plan could require manufacturers to stop including toluene in polishes and other nail products sold in California within four years.

Toluene has been associated with birth defects, miscarriages and organ damage, the newspaper noted.

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The chemical is added to create a smooth look and clear colors in the polishes.

Toluene is known as part of the so-called “toxic trio” of dangerous chemicals found in polishes, including formaldehyde, a preservative, and dibutyl phthalate, which gives polish a hard finish.

The trio is banned in many foreign countries but is legal in the U.S. if it is listed on the ingredient list.

Nail salon workers are the most vulnerable to exposure from the dangerous chemicals, the newspaper noted.

There are an estimated 130,000 nail salon workers in the state of California. Most of those workers are women of child-bearing age according to state regulators. Workers often come from low-income Asian immigrant communities who speak little to no English.

Researchers in 2015 found that nail salon workers could be absorbing metabolite of triphenyl phosphate, or TPHP, in their bodies just 10 to 14 hours after painting their nails.

That kind of exposure to TPHP in nail polish can cause endocrine or hormone disruption, which can lead to cancerous tumors and birth defects and other developmental disorders in unborn babies.

Meredith Williams, acting director of the state Department of Toxic Substances Control, said banning toluene from nail products sold over the counter will require cooperation from the nail industry.

A public boycott of products including the “toxic trio” can be as powerful as a legal ban, she added.

Lisa Powers of the the nail industry’s Personal Care Products Council told the newspaper that all 600 of its member companies have voluntarily stopped using toluene. The council is composed of 90 percent of nail polish producers in the U.S.

“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.”