Saturday, February 4, 2012

Dear young thing with the painted talons

So, I'm sitting here eating a sandwich and drinking coffee in a crowded cafe. This young chiclet sits down and cracks open her nail polish. Instant stink with toxic fumes.

I ask her why she is painting her nails while people are eating. She looks: "Ah duh--my nails are important. It will only take a minute."

Five minutes later, our eyes are watering and we are losing our appetites.

Why is nail polish so stinky? Because of three super toxic and dangerous chemicals:

Toluene: Clear, colourless liquid commonly used in nail polish as well as in paints, thinners and inks. It gives nail polish that nice smooth finish and helps everything to dry quicker. But when this volatile chemical is released into the air, it causes symptoms of headache, dizziness, fatigue and irritated eyes, nose and throat. Toluene has also been found to be toxic to the kidneys and liver and possibly a reproductive disruptor. It's of particular concern to pregnant women since it’s transmitted to the fetus via the placenta and then onto the infant through breast milk. Toluene is banned in Europe.

Formaldehyde: A preservative with a distinct odour that every high school biology student remembers. It acts as a nail hardener and helps stop polish from chipping. But this known human carcinogen is an irritant to the eyes, nose and throat. Breathing in the fumes often leads to coughing and wheezing, while exposure through contact to the skin results in rashes and other skin irritations. Other symptoms can include headaches, fatigue, dizziness and immune dysfunction. This chemical has also been banned in Europe.

Dibutyl phthalate (DBP): Found in plastics, personal care products, paints, pesticides as well as nail polish, is one of the most commonly used chemicals in consumer products. In personal care products it acts as a plasticizer, adding flexibility and sheen. But shiny nails come at a high price since this chemical is a recognized carcinogen linked to birth defects and damage to reproductive organs. There is an increasing number of studies that also suggest it’s toxic to the liver, lungs and kidneys. Exposure occurs through inhalation, absorption through skin and ingestion in food.

Women's Voices for the Earth (WVE), an environmental health organization, published a great report on the dangers of nail polish: Glossed Over. The San Francisco Chronicle has this great article on green alternatives to stinky nail polish. Here is a list of the top green nail polish companies available:

 Sadly, the young woman's nail polish doesn't even look good.  All that stink for nothing.