Of Lying Labels and Nail Salons: Why We Need Stronger Chemical Regulation

By Kim Irish, Program Manager

On April 10, 2012 by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control released a report showing how some nail care products sold in Northern California – despite claims to be free of one or more of the “toxic trio” ingredients (toluene, formaldehyde, and dibutyl phthalate or DBP) – actually contain high levels of toluene and DBP.

We’re outraged by this report that shows nail care manufacturers are blatantly lying about what’s in their products. 

As Julia Liou, Director of the Health Nail Salon Collaborative (which we’ve been a part of for years), says, misrepresenting ingredients on product labels is a major public health issue. How can salon owners and workers know what’s in the products that they are exposed to daily for long periods of time (8 hour shifts) if the labeling is incorrect?

Manufacturers who misrepresent the ingredients in their products should face fines and the Department of Toxic Substances Control should get the support it needs to conduct random sampling and enforce this type of misconduct. We appreciate that the Department of Toxic Substances Control conducted this study—regulatory enforcement! what a novelty!–and urge more funding and support for the department to be able to do random sampling of nail products and other cosmetics. As this report clearly shows, random sampling is needed to encourage manufacturers to be honest in their claims.

Nail salon workers in California (and there are approximately 121,000 licensed technicians in CA alone) are overwhelmingly Vietnamese immigrant women of reproductive age, and chronic exposure to chemicals like toluene and DBP has been associated with birth defects, asthma and other poor health outcomes.

No one should be exposed to chemicals like toluene and DBP, particularly in everyday cosmetics like nail products. But it’s especially unfair for nail salon workers to have to choose between their health and making a living.

This report shows, in stark terms, just how desperately we need meaningful health protections – like the federal Safe Cosmetics Act  – that prioritize the health of vulnerable people like children, teenagers, and women of reproductive age.

This entry was posted in BCA Action Alerts, BCA News.