Nail chemicals, Nail chemicals polish

Everybody knows there are dangerous-sounding chemicals in nail polish, but many of us think our limited contact with wet polish is too minimal to cause much risk. After all, we’re not drinking it!

But new research may chip away at your worry-free tradition of weekly mani-pedis: A study led by Duke University and the public health advocacy organization Environmental Working Group suggests that we absorb at least one potentially hormone-disrupting chemical every time we get a polish. While the impact of this chemical on our health is still unclear, the fact that our body can absorb chemicals through nail polish is cause for concern.

The chemical in question is triphenyl phosphate, or TPP. Companies add it to products to make them less flammable, although in nail polish it’s used to make the product stick more strongly to the nail.

TPP is listed as an ingredient in about 49 percent of the 3,000 nail polishes and treatments in EWG’s database, but the group suspects there may be more companies who use the chemical but don’t disclose it. TPP is also commonly used in many consumer goods, like foam seating, bedding products, and electronic products, which might be why researchers have found the chemical in the majority of participants in studies on pregnant women and international samples of breast milk.

Companies have been using TPP in consumer products since it was first patented in 1910. A definitive report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, an international policy forum for democratic market-based governments, found in 2002 that because TPP causes almost no irritation to the skin and barely any irritation to the eyes, the chemical is of “low priority for further work” when it comes to human health. While people are advised to seek medical help immediately if accidentally ingested, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, it’s generally regarded as safe to use in products.

However, worrying new correlational studies about the chemical’s potential to disrupt hormones in people and animals are causing scientists and activists to take a fresh look. In particular, the Duke study raises questions about the potential effects of low-level TPP absorption over time.