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Toxic Chemicals Discovered in ‘Nontoxic’ Nail Products in Bay Area

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From California Watch

A report showing potent chemicals are in nail care products that claim to be toxin-free is prompting a state senator to call for reforms, and the state attorney general’s office is reviewing the findings.

Photo: California Dept of Toxic Substances Control

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control study found that 18 of 25 nail care products bought in the San Francisco Bay Area contained at least one chemical linked to cancer or reproductive harm.

“What we found was somewhat surprising and somewhat disturbing,” said Karl Palmer, the study leader and the department’s pollution prevention performance manager.

The study released yesterday showed that most of the nail care products claiming to exclude a “toxic trio” of chemicals linked to cancer or reproductive harm did not live up to the claim. Five of the seven products claiming to be “three free” actually included one of the three focus chemicals: toluene, formaldehyde or dibutyl phthalate.

And 10 of the 12 products claiming to be free of toluene actually included the solvent, which can harm a developing fetus or induce asthma-like symptoms.

Julia Liou, manager of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, said during a press call that the report raises serious concerns for the state’s 121,000 full-time nail salon technicians.

“We don’t want workers to feel they have to choose their livelihood over their health,” Liou said.

The findings of the report echo those first reported by authorities in Oregon who fielded complaints about Brazilian Blowout hair products, which were found to contain formaldehyde despite claims to the contrary.

The California attorney general’s office sued the company that makes the solution and reached a settlement, fining the firm and requiring it to warn salon workers of formaldehyde in two of its products.

Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Kamala Harris, said her department is reviewing the findings of the Department of Toxic Substances Control nail care products report.

Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, called yesterday for a law to end mislabeling of nail products that contain toxic chemicals.

Adam Keigwin, Yee’s chief of staff, said the senator’s office is exploring the best way to address the problem, whether it’s higher fines, a chemical ban or sanctions for distributors of foreign products. He said the senator is concerned about consumers and about protecting a largely women-led industry.

“There’s obviously a problem,” he said. “What the answer is, we don’t know yet.”

The Department of Toxic Substances Control report says there are 48,000 nail salons in California.

Christina Jewett is an investigative journalist for California Watch.

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  • Anonymous

    Nail salons are a symptom of a country living in fantasy.