Nasty chemicals like DBP (dibutyl phthalate), toluene, and formaldehyde are in almost every nail polish on the market. Here are some random facts about common nail polish ingredients:

Toluene is a human reproductive and developmental toxin. It affects the nervous system with symptoms like tiredness, confusion, weakness, drunken-type actions, and memory loss. It is thought to cause liver damage and skin irritation. In high levels it may affect the kidneys. Toluene has been linked to birth defects.

Formaldehyde is a carcinogen and a common indoor air pollutant because its resins are used in many construction materials. Formaldehyde has caused cancer in the nose and throats of lab animals. Inhaling the fumes can result in watery eyes, headache, burning in the throat, and labored breathing.

Dibutyl Phthalates are used to soften plastic, and are known to affect hormone function. Studies have linked phthalates to early puberty in girls and low sperm counts in men. Environmental groups claim phthalate exposure may contribute to the rising number of uterine problems in women and testicular cancer in men. It could also be one of the contributing factors to a rise in infertility in both sexes. Repeated and heavy exposure to dibutyl phthalate may cause nausea and/or vomiting, tearing of the eyes, dizziness, and headache. Long-term exposures may cause damage to kidneys and the liver. Pregnant women must consider that dibutyl phthalate may harm the developing fetus and the male testes.

*That being said, personally I still indulge in nail polish. I choose my battles and polish is just one of those things I can't give up. I have tried several eco friendly brands and some are ok, others are horrible. I do limit polish use for my girls, only because the fertility factors freak me out. I hope to have grandchildren one day. Also the symptoms for Toluene are things I experience everyday, what does that mean?

Photo via:: Flickr, and yes those are a man's toes.



Diana said...

Imagine having to be the manicurists in a poor ventilated area working with this all day as a career? How sad after I read these facts.

Chakra Pennywhistle said...


Man, I do love pedicures. I haven't had a chance to try any of the eco friendlier ones.... Let me know if you find one worth sharing:)

Jamield said...

Ladies, I have your salvation. Butter London. It's a fabulous nail care company out of Seattle that makes what they call Three Free polish. No DBP (dibutyl phthalate), toluene, or formaldehyde.

It works beautifully. They have an actual salon in the Seattle airport and every time I fly through there I stop and get a mani/pedi and some polish. I think their polish actually lasts longer than the nasty stuff.

The polish is a little pricey, but it's totally worth it for the peace of mind. You can get it here:

Pure Habitat said...

I always wonder, you can get rid of the big three toxic offenders in nail polish, yet what are the other chemicals in the nail polish? I have yet to find an eco friendly brand that is completely forth coming. I used to have all the symptoms of Toluene exposure as well, but after I cut out everything synthetic I felt amazing! I wonder why I ever compromised?