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Nail Polish Studied For Birth Defect Link

May 24, 2004 |

Whether you get a professional manicure or do your own nails, you probably don't give the ingredients in the polish a second thought.

You may not know it, but most nail polishes contain a chemical to prevent chipping. It's commonly called DBP. And now at least two major cosmetics firms are eliminating DBP from their polish formulas because of links to birth defects in lab mice.

Dr. Jacqueline Moline, a specialist in occupational and environmental medicine at the Mount Sinai Medical Center, says the animals were subjected to very high doses.

"The studies gave them 100 mg per kilogram per day. There are of a magnitude much greater than anyone would have exposure to in the course of daily living using nail polish. They were also fed it," Moline said.

There are no studies on humans. So the potential threat to humans is unclear. Nonetheless, Procter & Gamble and Estee Lauder are phasing out the ingredient. Urban Decay did so several years ago.

Rebecca Owens says it was a topic she took seriously when she was pregnant.

"I became aware of it through a friend who always keeps me posted on this kind of stuff. I actually looked up on the Internet what brands," Owens said.

The companies are following the lead of the European markets, where the use of DBP is effectively banned from cosmetics. The Cosmetics Toiletry and Fragrance Association representing the U.S. industry says DBP presents no health risk, and that it's more a matter of politics than science.

Moline says consumers should know DBP belongs to a family of chemicals known as phthalates, which are widely used in cosmetics.

"So once you look at the cumulative exposure and all the products they use and they may want to see which ones they could possibly use that may not have as many chemicals," Moline said.

That is not a cause for alarm, she says, but a reason to be informed.

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