DTSC Request for Comments on Health and Safety Impact of Nail Product Chemicals

Wed Jan 11th, On Environmental Law, by

On November 15, 2016, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) formally sought stakeholder comments regarding – among other things – the potential health and safety impact of chemicals in nail products (i.e., hazard traits and exposure potential of candidate chemicals as well as alternative “green” chemicals, product formulation differences and how such differences affect both small scale and large scale manufacturers, and manufacturer initiatives to improve nail product safety).  Stakeholders are invited to comment and provide supporting information between November 15, 2016 to February 28, 2017.

California environmental attorneys are encouraged to be observant of industry reaction to the DTSC’s request for comments, as it is likely that the comment period will lead to a clearer regulatory roadmap for the future.

Current Concerns and Regulation

Though they are currently soliciting stakeholder comments and documentation to help fill in the data gaps, the DTSC has made a number of preliminary findings with regard to the health and safety impacts of nail product chemicals.

Nail products have the potential to expose nail salon workers, and other groups (such as children and pregnant women) to hazardous chemicals, including but not limited to DTSC-identified formaldehyde, dibutyl phthalate, and toluene, commonly referred to as the “toxic trio.”  Nail salon workers, in particular, face daily exposure to the chemicals in nail products, and often lack the education, language skills, and training necessary to challenge the workplace safety status quo. 

Studies show that nail salon workers and others regularly exposed to the toxic trio of nail product chemicals suffer from health issues at a higher rate than the regular population, such as respiratory and skin problems.

California has already reacted to preliminary data revealing the potential health hazards of the toxic trio of nail product chemicals.  In early October, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2125 into law, which will be implemented in January 2017.  AB 2125 does not prohibit the use of nail products that contain the chemical trio, but incentives nail salons to use alternative, safer products by allowing such salons to brand themselves as “healthy nail salons.”  Salons that use less toxic products and that focus on employee-safety will be given an official certificate to market their business as an alternative to the standard nail salon.

Moving Forward

The DTSC is soliciting comments and information on more than just the “toxic trio” of chemicals – formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate.  The DTSC is looking for research, documentation, and other information on potentially hazardous chemicals in nail products, to use as a jumping-off point for identifying Candidate Chemicals to be prioritized for further research.

Though it seems unlikely that the request for comments by the DTSC will lead to significant regulation of nail products for consumer end-users, recent regulation of nail salons points to the possibility of further regulation to protect the safety of nail salon workers (in the event that stakeholder data reveals even more significant health impacts). 

Currently, nail salon chemical regulation has taken an incentives-based approach, though it remains to be seen whether this approach – which is focused on branding and marketing incentives, not financial incentives – will have the intended long-term effect of pushing nail salons towards safer product alternatives.

Our Areas of