FRANCISCO—Facing mounting criticism from consumers as well as health
and environmental groups, three major nail polish manufacturers
acknowledged this week that they have begun removing some chemicals
linked to cancer and birth defects from their products.
The three companies are OPI Products, Inc.,
Orly International, Inc. and Del Laboratories, Inc., which makes the
Sally Hansen brand.
Leading drugstore brand Sally Hansen said
it is reformulating all its products to remove dibutyl phthalate (DBP),
formaldehyde and toluene. Spokesperson Ann Nugent told the Campaign for
Safe Cosmetics that the reformulation “is a big concern for us” and
that the company sees it as a “stepped-up effort.” Nugent wasn’t yet
able to say when all reformulated products will be on store shelves.
All three chemicals 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
cosmetics products in the European Union but the FDA has taken no such
action in the United States.
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
kidneys. The FDA does not require that cosmetics products be tested for
safety before they are sold.
While the Sally Hansen brand is removing
DBP, toluene and formaldehyde, OPI said it too would remove DBP from
products and Orly said it stopped using DBP last year. Both OPI and
Orly said they would continue to use toluene. OPI still uses
formaldehyde in some nail products.
Other major cosmetics multinationals,
including Avon, Estee Lauder, Revlon and L’Oreal, which makes the
Maybelline brand, confirmed to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics last
year that they would remove DBP. This latest shift by nail polish
manufacturers means that drugstore and mass market leader Sally Hansen
as well as salon leader OPI join those multinationals.
“We’re so pleased that these three
companies have each decided to stop using certain chemicals that can
harm our health and our children’s health,” said Jeanne Rizzo, R.N.,
executive director of the San Francisco-based Breast Cancer Fund, a
founding member of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Reformulating to
remove dangerous chemicals is so much better than arguing about how
much of those bad chemicals is okay to use in nail polishes.”
OPI, the leading professional brand of nail
polish found in most nail salons, has been a target of the Campaign for
Safe Cosmetics since a March 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.
In July, a dozen women dressed as “Miss
Treatment USA” beauty queens drew television news coverage by staging a
theatrical protest in Santa Monica, Calif. News coverage about OPI’s
use of toxic ingredients and its practice of marketing safer products
in Europe than in the United States has reached consumers nationwide.
“Removing DBP is an excellent first step,
but consumers deserve products free of all dangerous chemicals,” said
Charlotte Brody, R.N., executive director of Commonweal. “We will
continue to press OPI until formaldehyde and toluene are removed from
their nail polishes and nail treatments.”
Orly spokesperson Jennifer Marlowe said
that the company began removing DBP from all products “at least a year
ago” but that “some products still contain small amounts of toluene and
formaldehyde resin, not formaldehyde.” (Formaldehyde resins are
polymers with far fewer known concerns than formaldehyde.)
Health advocates predict the removal of
harmful ingredients will prevent some adverse health affects. “Every
baby born in the next 20 years has a little bit better chance of being
born healthy because DBP has been eliminated,” Brody said.
Brands that still use DBP in nail polish,
according to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database of
cosmetics and body care products, include Essie and Lippmann Collection.
More than 400 other cosmetics and personal
care product manufacturers have signed the Compact for Safe Cosmetics,
a pledge to replace hazardous chemicals ingredients with safer