News Release from Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and National Healthy

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					News Release from Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance
For Immediate Release: April 11, 2012

Contact: Shannon Coughlin, 415-336-2246,; Julia Liou, 310-804-9953,; Jamie Silberberger, 406-543-3747,; Stephenie Hendricks,

Nail Polishes Test Positive for Toxic Chemicals Despite Label
Consumers and nail salon workers can’t trust labels, highlighting the need for meaningful
regulation of cosmetics

Sacramento –California Environmental Protection Agency’s Department of Toxic Substances Control
announced yesterday that some nail care products typically found in many of California’s estimated
48,000 nail salons and sold directly to consumers contain high levels of hazardous chemicals despite
their labels claiming otherwise. These chemicals, dibutyl phthalate and toluene, have been linked to
birth defects, asthma and other chronic health conditions.

Dibutyl phthalate was banned from cosmetics in Europe in 2003, which prompted consumer groups to
demand that the chemical be removed from products sold in the United States. Many top nail polish
brands then began claiming their products were free of dibutyl phthalate, even labeling as such, but the
DTSC tests reveal that products from brands including Sation, Dare to Wear, Chelsea, New York Summer,
Paris Spicy, Sunshine, Cacie and Golden Girl actually contain high levels of the chemical.

This misbranding of nail polish is the latest in a series of scandals that have rocked the cosmetics
industry, including formaldehyde in Brazilian Blowout hair straightener, lead in L’Oreal lipstick,
carcinogens in Johnson’s baby shampoo and mercury in skin-lightening creams.

“Consumers have had it with the current system that tolerates cosmetics companies outright lying to
consumers, putting dangerous chemicals in our products, and getting away with it,” said Lisa Archer,
director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics at the Breast Cancer Fund. “It’s clearer than ever that we
need to overhaul our country’s outdated and broken cosmetics laws to protect workers and all of us.”

The House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee is currently debating the inclusion of cosmetics
regulation in must-pass user fee authorization bills, and health advocates are urging members to ensure
that any regulation they adopt is meaningful and effective. They say the regulations must include the
phase-out of ingredients linked to cancer and reproductive or developmental toxicity; a safety standard
that protects workers, babies and other vulnerable populations; full disclosure of ingredients; and FDA
authority to recall dangerous products from the market—all of which are elements of the Safe
Cosmetics Act of 2011 (H.R.2359), sponsored by Reps. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., Ed Markey, D-Mass., and
Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc.

In the case of nail polish, worker safety is of particular concern, as nail salon workers are heavily
exposed. In California there are approximately 121,000 nail technicians and 284,000 cosmetologists
offering nail services on a part-time basis; more than 380,000 nationwide. Women make up 96 percent
of this workforce. “Many salons choose brands that do not contain toluene and dibutyl phthalate as a
way to protect workers and customers from potentially harmful exposure to these chemicals,” said Julia
Liou of the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance and co-founder of the California Healthy
Nail Salon Collaborative. “The fact that some manufacturers are making false claims regarding their
ingredients is a major public health problem. The heath of workers who use these products day in and
day out is at stake here. No worker should suffer occupational exposures and health impacts due to
manufacturer misrepresentation.”

For the report, DTSC sampled 25 nail care products bought from six San Francisco Bay Area locations. Of
the 12 products that claimed to be free of at least one of what’s known as the “toxic-trio”—toluene,
dibutyl phthalate and formadlehyde, 10 contained toluene, and 4 contained dibutyl phthalate. Toluene
is a neurological and a developmental toxicant that can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, loss of
short-term memory, and is proven to be toxic to a developing fetus. Both of these chemicals can impact
the health of nail salon workers as well as consumers. Dibutyl phthalate can cause adverse effects on
the male and female reproductive systems, as well as developmental problems in infants and children.

“Manufacturers that don’t get their labels right are putting those that do in a bad light,” said Debbie
Raphael, DTSC director. “Manufacturers must ask themselves a basic question: ‘Is it necessary to make
nail care products with these ingredients?’ Asking that question is a primary goal of DTSC’s Safer
Consumer Products Regulations,” Raphael said. The regulations, scheduled to go into effect in 2012, are
an effort to make selected product manufacturers analyze alternatives to toxic ingredients in their

“This report shows that companies are including harmful chemicals in their products, and are not being
truthful about it,” said Miriam Yeung of the National Health Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance. “More
disturbing is that the cosmetics industry continues to be almost completely unregulated—the FDA still
does not have the power it needs to keep consumers and salon workers safe. Over 40 percent of nail
salon workers are Asian American women. These are hardworking women trying to make a living while
providing the service that their customers want. They deserve better.”

In 2006, under consumer pressure generated by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, leading salon nail
polish manufacturer OPI agreed to remove the “toxic trio” chemicals—formaldehyde, toluene and
DBP—from its nail polishes and treatments, and several other manufacturers followed suit. Yet the DTSC
study highlights the fact that voluntary action on the part of industry is not backed by any kind of

“Clearly we have a big problem. While the FDA has the responsibility to protect the public by ensuring
cosmetics are safe and non-toxic, under current law it doesn’t have the authority to do so,” said Archer
of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “The DTSC study illustrates the importance of states having the
right to regulate toxic chemicals to protect people’s health, and that ultimately we need stronger laws at
the federal level that set a bottom line of safety, no matter where you live and work.”

The DTSC report can be found online at


The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a coalition of more than 150 nonprofit organizations working to
protect the health of consumers and workers by eliminating dangerous chemicals from cosmetics. Core
members include: Clean Water Action, the Breast Cancer Fund, Commonweal, Environmental Working
Group, Friends of the Earth, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition and Women’s Voices for the Earth.

Founded in 2007, the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance (Alliance) works to increase the
health, safety, and rights of salon workers by reducing toxic chemical exposure and engaging in strategic
movement building, policy advocacy, and media efforts nationwide. The Alliance is a joint project of
Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative (the Collaborative),
and the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF).

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