MT- Facing pressure from consumers as well as health and environmental
groups, top nail polish manufacturer OPI Products, Inc. announced that
it has begun removing toluene, a hazardous solvent, from its
products, on the heels of an announcement last spring that it would
remove dibutyl phthalate (DBP) from its products. The victory was
announced alongside the release of a report, “Glossed Over: Health
Hazards Associated with Toxic Exposure in Nail Salons,” which reveals
that these and other chemicals commonly found in nail care and cosmetic
products applied at home or in nail salons are linked to cancer, birth
defects, and other health issues, generating concern for the largely
Vietnamese nail salon worker population given their long-term and
chronic exposure to these products.
On March 12, Women’s Voices for the Earth,
a national women’s environmental health organization, and eleven other
environmental and health groups requested that OPI, the leading
supplier of products to U.S. nail salons, remove the hazardous
chemicals, toluene and formaldehyde, from its products. OPI responded
immediately with a letter detailing that it plans to phase out toluene
from all of its products within the next few months. While OPI does not
use formaldehyde in its nail polishes, it remains an ingredient in some
of their nail hardeners. OPI claims it is searching for alternatives
for its use of formaldehyde in hardeners, but made no commitment on
this issue. OPI does manufacture a formaldehyde-free version of their
nail hardener as well.
“We are pleased that recent technological
advances have enabled us to improve our formulas and to harmonize our
product offerings so that we now have single global formulas for our
nail care products, rather than different offerings in different
markets,” wrote Eric Schwartz, COO of Los Angeles based OPI Products,
in a letter to Women’s Voices for the Earth, dated March 15. Please
visit www.womenandenvironment.org to download copies of the letters to and from OPI.
“This recent move is an example of the
good faith efforts of manufacturers in removing toxic ingredients in
response to consumer and community based activism,” said Alexandra
Gorman, Director of Science and Research at Women’s Voices for the
Earth. “This is good news for women everywhere and especially for nail
salon workers who work with these products day in and day out.”
While companies such as OPI and leading
drug store brand Sally Hansen have voluntarily decided to remove these
chemicals from their products, no legal enforcement exists yet for
other manufacturers of nail care products and cosmetics who use
hazardous chemicals in their products. Women’s Voices for the Earth
says the federal government needs to develop comprehensive regulation
of the chemicals in nail care products to protect the health of nail
salon workers who are continually exposed.
The “Glossed Over” report, released today
by Women’s Voices for the Earth, outlines this need for regulatory
measures to ensure the health and safety of nail salon workers. The
report cites the main health concerns associated with long-term
exposure to nail care products at nail salons and recommends improving
conditions for nail salon employees and customers by increasing proper
ventilation around work areas and providing bilingual advisory
information to owners and workers. The report is available in English
at www.womenandenvironment.org. A Vietnamese version of the report will be available in April.
As “Glossed Over” notes, the FDA does not
review or approve nail care and cosmetic products before they go on the
market. Instead the FDA relies on its Cosmetics Voluntary Registration
Program, which allows cosmetics manufacturers to voluntarily report to
the FDA adverse reactions to their products. California, however, has
moved forward by passing legislation to better inform the public about
hazardous chemicals in nail care and cosmetics products. The effort is
spearheaded by California Senator Carole Migden of San Francisco.
"This report illustrates why my
legislation, SB 484, is such an important step in protecting the health
and safety of nail salon workers and consumers. SB 484 became
California law this year, requiring cosmetics manufacturers to notify
the state if their products contain carcinogens,” said Senator Migden.
“Unfortunately there is nothing like it in the rest of the U.S. that
kick-starts the process of removing carcinogens and toxins from nail
products and cosmetics. We still have a long way to go to ensure that
cosmetics manufacturers are held accountable for doing their part to
protect the health and safety of workers and consumers.”
All three chemicals – DBP, toluene and
formaldehyde – are on California's Prop. 65 list of chemicals known to
cause cancer or reproductive toxicity. Studies have linked DBP to
underdeveloped genitals and other reproductive system problems in
newborn boys. DBP is banned from nail care and cosmetics products in
the European Union but the FDA has taken no such action in the United
In addition, the U.S. National Toxicology
Program says formaldehyde is "reasonably anticipated" to be a human
carcinogen. The EPA, meanwhile, restricts toluene in drinking water
because it can cause nervous system disorders and damage the liver and
Women of childbearing age are especially
vulnerable to even low levels of toxic exposure, due to the potential
impacts on a developing child. Some Vietnamese nail salon workers
report that they simply quit their jobs when they get pregnant to avoid
health impacts from their chronic exposure to the toxic chemicals
present in the products that they handle on a daily basis.
“At Women’s Voices for the Earth, we work
to improve the environmental health of all women. When companies like
OPI take the toxic chemicals out of their products, all women can begin
to breathe easier. Its a great first step along a path towards real
change in the industry” says Alexandra Gorman, Director of Science and
Research at Women’s Voices for the Earth.
OPI had been a target of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, (www.safecosmetics.org)
of which Women’s Voices for the Earth is a founding member, since a
March 2006 meeting between company executives and Campaign
representatives. In that meeting OPI refused to remove formaldehyde,
toluene and DBP from products.
Since then, OPI has been the object of more
than 75 protests organized by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in dozens
of cities, including Boston, Chicago, Dallas, San Francisco and
Washington. Those were quickly followed by a "Miss Treatment USA"
advertising campaign that spoofed the brand's quirky shade names. The
letter from OPI represents one of the most detailed responses from a
company that the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has seen to date in its
campaign to get cosmetic companies to “clean up” their product lines.
The organizations who co-signed Women’s
Voices for the Earth’s letter to OPI are: National Asian Pacific
Women’s Forum, Asian Law Caucus, Asian Health Services, Clean New York,
Coalition for Clean Air, Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander
Community Alliance (OCAPICA), Capital Region Action Against Breast
Cancer (CRAAB), Environmental Coalition of South Seattle, Great Neck
Breast Cancer Coalition, Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition,
Inc. and Prevention is the Cure, Inc.
Eric Schwartz, Chief Operating Officer of OPI Products Inc. can be reached at 818-759-5720.