Research has shown that the three can possibly harm human health: DBP is likely a reproductive system toxin, toluene could impair the nervous system and formaldehyde could cause cancer.
Think these are found only in industrial boiling pots and chemistry labs? Wrong! Your innocent pink nail polish could be hiding a dangerous cocktail. Recently, nail varnish has drawn flak for potentially containing the three chemicals. Body lotions, hygiene products and fragrances are among other products that may have this toxic mix.
Know the dreaded three:
Dibutyl phthalate (DBP)
Used to soften plastics, DBP is also added to adhesives, printing inks, lacquers and textile. Plus, it is used in medicine coatings. Banned in the European Union since 2015, DBP may still be in perfumes, body lotions and other products in the United States. In fact, DBP exposure is so broad that Praedicat’s models suggest it has about a 1 percent chance of generating mass litigation-related losses of over $100 billion to the U.S. economy over several years.
When used in cosmetics, it can migrate into the surrounding environment. So DBP in body lotions, perfumes and nail varnish could enter the bloodstream through the skin. Researchers are studying possible links between DBP and disruptions in hormonal and reproductive systems and prenatal development.
Also called methylbenzene, toluene is found in fossil fuels. It is also produced when oil is refined and organic fuels are burnt. Toluene is common in paints and paint thinners, inks, adhesives, stain removers, fragrances, and hand and nail care products, among others.
It can be absorbed into the body via skin and through inhalation. Although toluene is slow to be absorbed through the skin, products such as body lotions give it enough time to do so. Toluene evaporates easily, which is why it is used in some cosmetics. So when such products are applied and are drying, toluene is present in the air. As many as 180 studies on its effect on humans have been published, with many pointing to health problems related to the nervous system.
Formaldehyde has been identified as a carcinogen. It is used to make resins, which are precursors to many chemicals used in processes that produce consumer products ranging from disinfectants, adhesives and laminates to clothing, paper and personal care products including some hair straighteners. The chemical has also been the subject of product liability lawsuits.
Formaldehyde can potentially cause blood, ear, nose and throat cancer as well as nervous and reproductive problems.