Is “Non-Toxic” Nail Polish Really Non-Toxic? Maybe Not, Study Shows

Nail polishes have been linked to birth defects, thyroid problems, obesity, cancer, and allergic reactions. That’s why many people specifically shop for polishes labeled “non-toxic.” But as past research shows, even nail polishes marketed as non-toxic may contain chemicals that are harmful to your health. [1]

Study co-author Anna Young, a doctoral student at Harvard University, said: [2]

“It’s sort of like playing a game of chemical Whac-A-Mole, where 1 toxic chemical is removed and you end up chasing down the next potentially harmful chemical substituted in.”

It’s not just the nail polish industry that does this; it’s also commonplace in the pesticide and plastics industry.

Supposedly non-toxic nail polishes appeared on the market in the early 2000’s, when many companies began labeling products “3-free.” The phrase signifies that the product is free of:

  • Dibutyl phthalate, a plasticizer used to enhance a polish’s texture and function. It has been linked to reproductive and developmental problems.
  • Toluene, a known nervous system disruptor.
  • Formaldehyde, a carcinogen.

Some nail polish companies took things several steps further by removing even more chemicals, labeling their products “5-free,” “10-free,” and even “13-free.” This, however, does little to educate buyers about which chemicals have been removed and which chemicals have replaced them. That is what Young and her colleagues set out to find.

40 Nail Polishes Tested

For the study, the team purchased and tested the contents of 40 nail polishes from 12 different brands, labeled 3-free all the way up to 13-free.

The study didn’t name the brands, but 2 of the tested brands made up a combined 15% of the nail polish market.

Young said:

“We found that the meaning of these claims isn’t standardized across brands, and there’s no clear information on whether these nail polishes are actually less toxic. Sometimes, when 1 known harmful chemical was removed, the polish instead contained another similar chemical that may be just as toxic.”

Most of the 5-free polishes lacked the same handful of ingredients; however, Young and her team found far less consistency among polishes labeled 10-free and above. The brands varied in how they adhered to the claims on their labels.

None of the samples were found to contain dibutyl phthalate. But polishes with a range of labels tested positive for at least 1 of 2 other plasticizers linked with health problems. One polish was found to contain one of the chemicals its label claimed to exclude.

(Click for larger version.) Figure 1. Product label definitions for investigated nail polish product lines. Note: The blue color represents the ingredients that are removed from the product line, according to the label. Potential plasticizer ingredients are underlined. Nonplasticizer ingredients are not underlined. No. of nail polish brands refers to the number of brands that had a nail polish product line with that particular product label. *These two ingredients were reported to count as one exclusion. **Fragrances can contain plasticizer chemicals.

Just because a nail polish claims to exclude multiple substances, that doesn’t mean it’s safer than one that makes no such claims.

The findings applied to some of the most popular nail polish brands in the industry. Though the samples weren’t representative of the entire nail polish market, Young said the findings are relevant to anyone who likes to add a colorful hue to their nails.

Amusingly, some of the nail polishes the Harvard researchers analyzed excluded ingredients that pose no health risks at all, such as gluten, wheat, fat, and “animal-derived ingredients.” You only have to worry about those if you plan on drinking your nail polish. [1]

(Click for larger version.) Figure 2. Side-by-side comparison of concentrations (?g/g) of TPHP (top) vs DEHP (bottom) for 40 nail polish samples.

It’s not clear how much exposure it takes to affect a person’s health, but nail salon employees, in particular, should be concerned about the potential health risks of their job. [2]

Young said:

“This is especially important for the over 400,000 nail salon workers in the U.S. who could be exposed on a daily basis, for many years, to chemicals that have been linked to health effects on fertility, the reproductive system, fetal development, thyroid function, and possibly even obesity or cancer.”

Young and her fellow authors said that nail polish makers should focus more on excluding entire classes of ingredients – including phthalates and organophosphates – rather than individual compounds. [1]

They wrote:

“Then, certified labels could be useful tools for educating nail polish users, nail salon owners, and nail salon workers about toxic chemicals and how to make best purchasing decisions.”

The study was published in 2018 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology – so hopefully things have changed since then. Either way, be reminded that product labels and claims aren’t always so truthful or accurate.

Sources:

[1] Health

[2] Time

Is “Non-Toxic” Nail Polish Really Non-Toxic? Maybe Not, Study Shows

Nail polishes have been linked to birth defects, thyroid problems, obesity, cancer, and allergic reactions. That’s why many people specifically shop for polishes labeled “non-toxic.” But as past research shows, even nail polishes marketed as non-toxic may contain chemicals that are harmful to your health. [1]

Study co-author Anna Young, a doctoral student at Harvard University, said: [2]

“It’s sort of like playing a game of chemical Whac-A-Mole, where 1 toxic chemical is removed and you end up chasing down the next potentially harmful chemical substituted in.”

It’s not just the nail polish industry that does this; it’s also commonplace in the pesticide and plastics industry.

Supposedly non-toxic nail polishes appeared on the market in the early 2000’s, when many companies began labeling products “3-free.” The phrase signifies that the product is free of:

  • Dibutyl phthalate, a plasticizer used to enhance a polish’s texture and function. It has been linked to reproductive and developmental problems.
  • Toluene, a known nervous system disruptor.
  • Formaldehyde, a carcinogen.

Some nail polish companies took things several steps further by removing even more chemicals, labeling their products “5-free,” “10-free,” and even “13-free.” This, however, does little to educate buyers about which chemicals have been removed and which chemicals have replaced them. That is what Young and her colleagues set out to find.

40 Nail Polishes Tested

For the study, the team purchased and tested the contents of 40 nail polishes from 12 different brands, labeled 3-free all the way up to 13-free.

The study didn’t name the brands, but 2 of the tested brands made up a combined 15% of the nail polish market.

Young said:

“We found that the meaning of these claims isn’t standardized across brands, and there’s no clear information on whether these nail polishes are actually less toxic. Sometimes, when 1 known harmful chemical was removed, the polish instead contained another similar chemical that may be just as toxic.”

Most of the 5-free polishes lacked the same handful of ingredients; however, Young and her team found far less consistency among polishes labeled 10-free and above. The brands varied in how they adhered to the claims on their labels.

None of the samples were found to contain dibutyl phthalate. But polishes with a range of labels tested positive for at least 1 of 2 other plasticizers linked with health problems. One polish was found to contain one of the chemicals its label claimed to exclude.

(Click for larger version.) Figure 1. Product label definitions for investigated nail polish product lines. Note: The blue color represents the ingredients that are removed from the product line, according to the label. Potential plasticizer ingredients are underlined. Nonplasticizer ingredients are not underlined. No. of nail polish brands refers to the number of brands that had a nail polish product line with that particular product label. *These two ingredients were reported to count as one exclusion. **Fragrances can contain plasticizer chemicals.

Just because a nail polish claims to exclude multiple substances, that doesn’t mean it’s safer than one that makes no such claims.

The findings applied to some of the most popular nail polish brands in the industry. Though the samples weren’t representative of the entire nail polish market, Young said the findings are relevant to anyone who likes to add a colorful hue to their nails.

Amusingly, some of the nail polishes the Harvard researchers analyzed excluded ingredients that pose no health risks at all, such as gluten, wheat, fat, and “animal-derived ingredients.” You only have to worry about those if you plan on drinking your nail polish. [1]

(Click for larger version.) Figure 2. Side-by-side comparison of concentrations (?g/g) of TPHP (top) vs DEHP (bottom) for 40 nail polish samples.

It’s not clear how much exposure it takes to affect a person’s health, but nail salon employees, in particular, should be concerned about the potential health risks of their job. [2]

Young said:

“This is especially important for the over 400,000 nail salon workers in the U.S. who could be exposed on a daily basis, for many years, to chemicals that have been linked to health effects on fertility, the reproductive system, fetal development, thyroid function, and possibly even obesity or cancer.”

Young and her fellow authors said that nail polish makers should focus more on excluding entire classes of ingredients – including phthalates and organophosphates – rather than individual compounds. [1]

They wrote:

“Then, certified labels could be useful tools for educating nail polish users, nail salon owners, and nail salon workers about toxic chemicals and how to make best purchasing decisions.”

The study was published in 2018 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology – so hopefully things have changed since then. Either way, be reminded that product labels and claims aren’t always so truthful or accurate.

Sources:

[1] Health

[2] Time

Chemistry Technique Developed By Researchers That Turns Plastic Into Clean Fuel

(Mayukh Saha) This is one waste problem that could instead be turned into a boon for our energy-starved planet. We are drowning in plastic and have already produced 8.3 billion tons of plastics in just 65 years, equivalent in weight to 25,000 Empire State Buildings. This will take ages to decompose and will cause incalculable harm to wildlife and the environment. But researchers have come up with a new technique that can convert the pollutants into eco-friendly fuel.

The post Chemistry Technique Developed By Researchers That Turns Plastic Into Clean Fuel appeared on Stillness in the Storm.

These Common Household Toxins are Poisoning Children

People relax on sofas and walk across their kitchen floors without giving it a second thought, but a study shows that toxic chemicals used in furniture and vinyl flooring to make them fire-resistant could be poisoning children. [1]

The problem is most prevalent in public housing where scientists say children have toxin levels in their blood and urine up to 15 times higher than those who aren’t exposed.

The flame-retardant chemicals, called PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers), are linked to neurodevelopmental delays, obesity, endocrine and thyroid disruption, cancer, and other diseases.

Flame Retardants: 5 Dangerous Facts About These Toxins

Despite efforts to reduce the prevalence of PBDEs, they continue to persist, said Dr. Heather Stapleton of Duke University.

The full scope of the dangers posed by polybrominated diphenyl ethers is unknown because few studies have investigated how or if the chemicals are absorbed into the bloodstreams of children who are exposed to them.

Stapleton said:

“There are concerns that these chemicals could affect the developing brain.

In homes with flame retardants, particularly for children who spend most of their time indoors, they have widespread exposure, for example in household dust.”

PBDEs fall under the umbrella term semi-volatile organic compounds. They are found in electronics, furniture, and building materials. In pieces of furniture like sofas, they are found in the foam inside of the cushions.

In the past, PBDEs were used in most couches, rugs, and TVs. Research shows these chemicals can stunt the development of the brain and reproductive system. Phthalates, used in vinyl flooring and carpets, as well as food packaging, have been linked to obesity because the chemicals change the way the body stores fat.

Source: Environmental Working Group
Source: Environmental Working Group

Improvements are Being Made, But…

In the United States, great strides have been made to reduce the prevalence of PBDEs. When Stapleton first tested consumer products for the fire-retardants, 80% contained PBDEs. Her most recent tests showed about 20% of consumer products contained the toxins.

But U.S. regulators have stopped short of banning PBDEs and they continue to persist in the environment, particularly in public housing, where older flooring, furniture, and other products have not been swapped out for safer ones.

What’s more, the toxins keep showing up in unexpected places, including in farmed fish, even though both the U.S. and European Union (EU) have placed restrictions on PBDEs in fish-farming waters.

The Study

For the study, which began in 2014, Stapleton and her colleagues analyzed indoor dust and air from inside the homes of 190 families and 203 children, along with foam from inside furniture. They collected blood and urine samples from the children to test for the prevalence of PBDEs. [2]

Stapleton said:

“We quantified 44 biomarkers of exposure to phthalates, organophosphate esters, brominated flame retardants, parabens, phenols, antibacterial agents, and perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).”

Children from homes with vinyl flooring had levels of benzyl butyl phthalate metabolite – a chemical linked to respiratory and skin conditions, multiple myeloma, and other health problems – in their urine that were 15 times higher compared with children who were not exposed. [1]

Children who lived in homes that had a sofa in the main living area that had PBDEs in the foam had a 6-fold higher concentration of PBDEs in their blood.

PBDEs are still so prevalent that they have even shown up in marine organisms in the Mariana Trench, the deepest part of the ocean. The toxins can linger for years and bind to other particles in the water that can carry them throughout the ocean. Studies have found that PBDEs and other organic pollutants are prevalent in fish worldwide.

Children may suffer the ill effects of PBDEs even if they haven’t been directly exposed to it. A study published in 2017 found that prenatal exposure to the chemicals may lead to lower IQ scores in children.

Reducing Exposure to Polybrominated Diphenyl Ethers

Like anything else, know that we’re always bombarded with toxins from various sources; it isn’t great, but in some respect, it’s simply part of our lives and society – unless you want to live in a bubble. So while I wouldn’t overly stress about this, it’s good to know that these toxins do exist, and there are some simple things you can do to reduce exposure without stressing yourself into a jumbled ball of yarn.

Source: Environmental Working Group

Sources:

[1] Daily Mail

[2] Earth

Images Source:

Environmental Working Group

Toxic Pesticides Have Been Showing up in People’s Urine

A study published in the journal JAMA showed once again that levels of glyphosate, the main ingredient in the popular herbicide Roundup, in human urine have increased dramatically among Californians in the past 20 years. [1]

For the study, urine samples were collected from 100 Southern California residents over the age of 50 from 1993-1996, to 2014-2016.

Paul Mills, professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California San Diego, and a team of researchers found that the percentage of people who tested positive for glyphosate skyrocketed 500% during that period. The levels of glyphosate also spiked 1,208% during those years.

During the early phase of the study, Mills said “there were very low levels – and they were only detectable in 12 out of 100 people.” [2]

He explained:

“Then over the next 22 years, we found about a 1,000% increase in the levels found in the 100 people, on average.”

Prenatal glyphosate exposure has been linked to shorter gestation times and lower birth weights in babies. Some research suggests, too, that the chemical may be generating deadly antibiotic-resistance.

But glyphosate most often makes headlines for its potential link to cancer. Multiple studies have found that the Roundup ingredient could be carcinogenic. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) wing of the World Health Organization (WHO) classified glyphosate a probable human carcinogen in 2015.

The group said in 2016, however, that “glyphosate is unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk to humans from exposure through the diet.”

Yet Mills believes the levels in human urine increased primarily from people eating foods sprayed with the chemical.

He said:

“It’s unlikely that all these folks are spraying that much Roundup in their yards every day, to get the levels we observed. Our research is showing that a lot of us across the US likely have fairly significant levels of these compounds, unless we take up an organic diet”

To follow up on his findings, Mills plans to measure factors that track liver disease, to ascertain whether the levels of glyphosate detected in the study are associated with a greater risk of liver problems in humans.

A study from the UK, in which rats were fed low levels of glyphosate throughout their lives, found that the chemical increased the risk of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease in the rodents. According to Mills, the levels of glyphosate found in the people in his study were 100-fold greater than those in the rats, though they were still very low. [1]

Specifically, Mills wants to find out how much people are exposed to glyphosate through breathing in particles that have been sprayed into the air, especially in agricultural areas.

Read: Most of the Glyphosate Sprayed in CA Is Applied in Poor Areas

Glyphosate use is on the rise in the US., and it is the most widely used herbicide chemical in the world. Roundup was developed to eliminate weeds from corn, soy, and other genetically modified crops, however, many weeds have grown resistant to the herbicide. This means that farmers must spray even more of it, potentially increasing the health ramifications of being exposed to the weed-killer.

Mills says:

“From my perspective it’s remarkable that we have been ingesting a lot of this chemical of the last couple of decades. But the biomedical literature hasn’t said much about its effects on people. That’s a gap that we endeavored to address and bring more awareness to with this study.”

Sources:

[1] Time

[2] HealthDay

Commonly-Used Household Chemicals Damage Sperm in Men, Dogs

The couch you sit on, the carpets you walk on, and even some of your kids’ toys may pose health risks due to the chemicals they are made with. In some of the latest research, it was found that a commonly-used household chemical known as DEHP may be harming fertility not only for men – but also for dogs.

The chemical DEHP – used in carpets, flooring, upholstery, clothes, wires and toys – and the industrial chemical polychlorinated biphenyl 153 (PCB153), may harm male fertility in humans and dogs, researchers from the University of Nottingham found. And even though PCB153 is banned worldwide, it remains widely detectable in the environment. In fact, both chemicals have been found in commercially-available dog food. [2]

Laboratory tests with sperm taken from male humans and dogs showed levels of the 2 chemicals consistent with environmental exposure reduced sperm motility and increased fragmentation of DNA in both species.

Scientists have established that poor human sperm motility leads to increased DNA fragmentation in both men and dogs, which increases the likelihood of male infertility.

The findings are especially concerning in light of previous studies that show a 50% decline in human sperm quality worldwide in the past 8 decades. Another study by the same group of researchers showed a similar decline in dogs, which suggests that household chemicals are at least partly to blame. [1]

Study leader Richard Lea said in a university news release:

“This new study supports our theory that the domestic dog is indeed a ‘sentinel’ or mirror for human male reproductive decline, and our findings suggest that man-made chemicals that have been widely used in the home and working environment may be responsible for the fall in sperm quality reported in both man and dog that share the same environment.”

Lea added:

“Our previous study in dogs showed that the chemical pollutants found in the sperm of adult dogs, and in some pet foods, had a detrimental effect on sperm function at the concentrations previously found in the male reproductive tract.”

The new study is the first to test the effect of DEHP and PCB153 on both human and dog sperm in the lab, in real-world concentrations.

The scientists think there is a good chance that location determines the extent to which males are affected by the chemicals. This is because the chemicals are a large part of Western industries. Previous studies have been unable to find the same sperm decline in men and dogs living in Asia, Africa, or South America, which suggests the problem is a predominantly Western one. [2]

As well, other factors may be involved in the declining sperm quality of men and pups, such as air pollution and obesity. Still, it’s reasonable to conclude that since men and dogs are exposed to household contaminants at the same levels, those contaminants are likely affecting their sperm.

Lea said:

“Demonstrating such effects of chemicals at environmental concentrations raises awareness of these pollutants, and my hope is this will lead to steps in our personal lives to reduce or at least limit further exposures.”

The study appears in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source:

[1] HealthDay

[2] Inverse

Study: Smokers Often Unaware of Chemical-Cocktail in Cigarettes

Do you have any idea what ‘ingredients’ go into making cigarettes? You would be surprised to hear what things people inhale with each puff of a cigarette – besides nicotine, I mean.

tobacco-2
Source: ThinkProgress

There are about 4,800 chemicals in a cigarette, many of which are carcinogenic; but researchers from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, found that the majority of smokers don’t know what they’re inhaling.

Marcella Boynton, lead author of the study, said in a press release:

“The majority of the [United States] public wants easy access to information about chemicals in cigarettes and other tobacco products. Surprisingly, our results reveal that groups one might presume to be the least psychologically motivated to look for this information, young adults and smokers, were more likely to say that they had previously looked for this information.”

For the study, data was analyzed from 5,014 American adults over age 18 who were contacted in a national telephone survey. The survey focused mainly on low-income areas, which are more likely to include people who use tobacco and suffer smoking-related health problems – the impoverished, the lesser educated, and sexual minorities.

Read: 7 Huge Detrimental Effects of Smoking

The team found that 27.5% of the respondents had sought information about the chemicals in tobacco smoke that can cause cancer and other adverse health effects.

Of the participants who had searched for information, 37.2% were between the ages of 18 and 25 – the largest percentage – and 34.3% of them were smokers. Some 26% of those who were non-smokers also said they had looked for information on cigarette smoke.

The biggest finding was that most of the participants didn’t know what’s contained in cigarette smoke, and half of them said they’d like to see that information printed on cigarette packages.

Cigarette smoke contains arsenic, ammonia, acetaldehyde, coumarin, and various other substances, most of which are known to be toxic when inhaled or ingested. The FDA lists the known toxins on the agency’s website.

However, none of this information is available to the average person who buys a pack of cigarettes. Instead, the Surgeon General provides rather vague warnings on cigarette packs about the dangers of smoking.

And since there’s such a vast number of chemicals in cigarette smoke, it’s impossible to gauge just how many health problems are caused by smoking, or how serious they are. [1]

smoking_can_damage_every_part_of_the_body
Source: IFinallyQuit.com

Read: What are the Immediate and Long-Term Benefits of Quitting Smoking?

Boynton said:

“By making tobacco chemical information available to the public and tobacco industry practice more transparent, those seeking this information may be less likely to start smoking and more likely to quit…”

The researchers found a nugget of good news, however; more than 80% of smokers interviewed for the survey expressed a desire to kick the habit. [2]

The study was published in BMC Public Health.

Sources:

[1] Medical Daily

[2] NHVoice

ThinkProgress

IFinallyQuit.com