Should we abolish the nail polish?

Nail paints have been in fashion for a long long time now. I don’t see them going out of fashion ever, but wait. Are there any chemicals lurking behind the beauty? This is Anuja, pretending to sound like a journalist, from anujasawant.com :D

As a kid I had a bad habit of biting my nails. My mom tried to stop me but never succeeded until I started realizing how ugly they look. Back then nail paints were for my toes only. My toes however never took it so well, they’d almost always go yellow after I applied nail paints. Yellowing was caused due to the leftover dyes in the polish. The trick was to use a clear-base coat but I wasn’t that fashion savvy but I know this now.

Applying nail paint was one of the ways to deter me from biting them but out of desperation I would scrap it off with my teeth. I recently advised a friend to do the same but I wondered if any chemicals went into my mouth when I did that. A study led by Duke University and Environmental Working Group suggests that we absorb at least one potentially hormone-disrupting chemical every time we get a polish. What was I thinking putting my nails into my mouth like that?

According to About.com, nail polish could be made of:

  • Nitrocellulose (CAS:9004-70-0) – a film former, the gloss giver.
  • Dissolved in solvents such as butyl acetate (CAS: 123-86-4) or ethyl acetate (CAS: 141-78-6). Toluene, xylene and formalin or formaldehyde used to be in nail polishes as solvents and are infamously toxic.
  • Tosylamide-formaldehyde (CAS: 25035-71-6) and triphenyl phosphate (CAS: 115-86-6) are resins that help the polish adhere to the nails surface.
  • Plasticizers such as Camphor (CAS: 464-49-3, it has some more CAS numbers. According to EPA, a chemical may also be listed with multiple CAS numbers when multiple numbers have been inadvertently assigned to the same chemical. This multiple assignment can occur when forms of a chemical are originally believed to be unique, but after further review by chemists, are identified as the same chemical.) prevent the polish from cracking.
  • A pigment that colors the polish.
  • Titanium dioxide (CAS: 13463-67-7) or ground mica for the sparkles.
  • Thickening agents such as stearalkonium hectorite.

Some of the tools I used to access toxicity of above mentioned chemicals are:

  • Chemical Data Access Tool (CDAT): I did not find this useful. Take the first one for instance and tell me what you see. It won’t even give me anything when I entered ‘nitrocellulose’, I had to look for its CAS number. So I’ve given you the CAS number to find out for yourself and in case you find a new tool and it needs a CAS number. Let me know if you find a new and better tool.
  • ChemHATBlueGreen Alliance has launched a new, free tool that is designed by workers for workers to make it easier to learn about chemicals: ChemHAT (Chemical Hazards and Alternatives Toolbox). With ChemHAT’s searchable database, one can easily read about the scientific findings on the short and long-term health effects of over 10,000 commonly used chemicals. It also lets you search by the CAS number. Couldn’t find nitrocellulose on that one. I have used this the most and have compiled the information of the chemicals below in the form of a slideshow. If you are unable to see let me know and I’ll change the format or solve the issue somehow.
  • Green Chemistry Toxics Information Databases: If you want to try more tools.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

While doing this I wondered how would a common man would do all this. I really think it is the job of the authorities who are responsible for ascertaining the nature of the chemicals used, transparency, and safety of the people. There are people who are paid to do things like this, so why bother the common man with tools that are not even user friendly. There were some chemicals I didn’t even find the information for in those tools. Why? In spite of this, I don’t want nail polishes to be abolished because I like painting my nails occasionally. Here are some eco-friendly nail polishes one can use.

When you are done finding one, you can head over to my cousin’s nail art on Instagram for some cool nail design! She is really good at it.

screenshot-www.instagram.com 2016-05-23 14-54-27

And when you are done doing that let me know how going eco-friendly worked for you.

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