State study finds some “non-toxic” nail products are highly toxic

Some locals concerned about toxins
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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The Department of Toxic Substances Control released a report showing some nail products, which claimed to be free of harmful chemicals, actually contained dangerously high levels. Some local nail technicians say the chemicals don’t bother them, while some consumers say they have switched to non-toxic and natural beauty products. Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo), who authored California’s law requiring certain sanitary conditions at nail salons, said he wants to stiffen penalties for nail polish manufacturers who mislabel their products containing toxic chemicals. According to the department’s report released this month, after testing a small sample of 25 nail polishes, results showed that several of the brands of nail polish claiming to be free of toxins contained them. And in some cases had an even higher degree than in products that did not claim to be non-toxic. Three of the most toxic chemicals according to the department are dibutyl phthalate, toluene and formaldehyde. Dibutyl phthalate and toluene are known to the state as developmental toxins, while formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, the report said. “When nail care products claim to be free of unsafe chemicals, despite how the label reads, just the opposite is often true,” the report said. The report also said that based on a study of licensed nail technicians, 59 to 80 percent of nail technicians are female immigrants of Vietnamese decent. “Often, English is not their primary language, which can limit their ability to comprehend warnings of health risks, exposure routes and preventive measures in the product literature,” the report said. Eric Dao, owner of Auburn Nails, said the chemicals in nail polish don’t bother him because his shop is well-ventilated. “We have a backdoor and a front door, so we just open the door. We have vents,” Dao said. Diane Giuliani, of Meadow Vista, said while she only paints her toes, after surviving breast cancer in 2010 she switched to a plant-based diet and reevaluated the products she used on her body. “The manufacturers don’t really say how damaging they can be and especially if you are talking about putting it on your skin, that is the largest organ of the body,” Giuliani said. “I have pretty much thrown out a lot of products that I used to use.” She said many of the products that contain toxin are everyday items available at grocery and drug stores. She has replaced her moisturizer with coconut oil and shea butter. “I look for shampoos that don’t have any parabens and sodium laurel sulfate. There is just so much stuff in these products,” Giuliani said. Yee said he plans to review existing penalties to determine if they should be increased or if particular chemicals should be banned. “There are no excuses for manufacturers to mislabel their products,” Yee said in the press release. “If they can’t clean up their act on their own, then we have no choice but to force those changes by law.” Reach Sara Seyydin at, or follow her on Twitter @AJ_News.