Michelle Schoffro Cook October 21, 2015
When you paint your nails or go for a manicure, you may be getting more than you bargained for: hormone imbalances and the potential health problems that can result.
A new Duke University-Environmental Working Group (EWG) study published in the medical journal Environment International found that the hormone disruptor triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) found in nail polish (even some seemingly “natural” ones) showed up in every woman the researchers tested, if they had recently painted their nails. The researchers tested ten different brands of nail polishes to determine which ones contained the hormone disruptor: eight of the nail polish brands contained TPHP, including two brands that did not list the ingredient on the label.
Hormone disruptors, or endocrine disruptors as they are also known, are a group of chemicals that cause hormonal imbalances, which are sometimes linked to obesity and weight gain, development of breasts in men, breast cancer and many other possible health issues.
The researchers took urine samples of the women who participated to obtain baseline readings of diphenyl phosphate (DPHP) in their urine since DPHP is a metabolite of TPHP that shows up in urine and demonstrates exposure to the toxin. Then the women painted their nails with a nail polish containing less than 1 percent of TPHP by weight and had their urine tested again 10 to 14 hour afterward. The women had a nearly seven-fold increase of DPHP in their urine, suggesting that the TPHP had made its way into the women’s bodies.
But the researchers wanted to determine whether the TPHP found its way into their bodies through inhalation of fumes or through absorption through their nails. To do so, some women painted synthetic nails adhered to rubber gloves so that TPHP could not be absorbed. In this way, the researchers could compare their results. Urinary levels of DPHP were assessed again and found to be significantly lower in the women who wore gloves, suggesting that the primary route of TPHP into the body was through contact with the nails, not inhalation as many people might think. The researchers concluded that painting nails with nail polish is a significant source of the endocrine disruptor TPHP.
TPHP is a plasticizer that may be added to nail polishes to make them more flexible and durable. According to the Environmental Working Group, TPHP is a reproductive and developmental toxin, meaning that it can interfere with fertility and potentially fetal development. Additionally, the chemical can be toxic to the brain and nervous system and cause hormonal imbalances that could lead to many serious health effects. It is also suspected of being an environmental toxin. The organization has compiled a database of over 3,000 nail polishes, of which 49 percent disclose that they contain TPHP, but some contain the endocrine disruptor and do not disclose its presence in the products.
The scientists believe that other ingredients found in the nail polishes made the nails more permeable, thereby allowing TPHP to be absorbed through the nails into the body.
Some of the brands that contain TPHP include: Sally Hansen, Wet n Wild, Opi, Revlon, Maybelline, Essie, butter LONDON, Milani, SpaRitual, Orly, theBalm, Nuance by Salma Hayek and perhaps most surprising, Beauty without Cruelty (BWC). Check out the article, “12 Non-Toxic Nail Polish Brands” to find better options but be aware that because there are insufficient regulations surrounding the use or disclosure about use, some brands may claim to be devoid of TPHP and may still contain the toxic ingredient.