The Department of Toxic Substances Control reported that some nail polishes commonly found in California salons and that are advertised as free of a socalled "toxic trio" of chemicals actually contain high levels. The "toxic trio" is the chemicals of toluene, dibutyl phthalate (DBP) and formaldehyde.
Toluene should not be inhaled due to its health effects. Low to moderate levels can cause tiredness, confusion, weakness, drunken-type actions, memory loss, nausea, loss of appetite, and hearing and color vision loss. These symptoms usually disappear when exposure is stopped. Inhaling high levels of toluene in a short time may cause light-headedness, nausea, or sleepiness. It can also cause unconsciousness, and even death.
DBP is absorbed through the skin. It can enhance the capacity of other chemicals to cause genetic mutations, although it has not been shown to be a mutagen itself. It may cause harm to the unborn child and impair fertility.
Formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen. Short-term exposure to formaldehyde can be fatal. Long-term exposure to low levels of formaldehyde may cause respiratory difficulty, eczema, and sensitization.
Investigators randomly selected 25 brands of polishes that are available at every nail salons, including a number of products claiming to be free to the chemicals. 10 of 12 products that claimed to be free of toluene actually contained it, with four of them having dangerously high levels. The report also found that five of the seven products that claimed to be "free of the toxic three" included one or more of the agents in significant levels.
Among the products that were tested were: Sation 99 basecoat, Sation 53 red-pink nail color, Dare to wear lacquer, Chelsea 650 Baby's Breath Nail Lacquer, New York Summer Nail Color, Paris Spicy 298 nail lacquer, Cacie Light Free Gel Basecoat, Cacie Sun Protection Topcoat, Golden Girl Topcoat, Nail Art Top-N-Seal and High Gloss Topcoat.