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Flame Retardant Chemical In Nail Polish May Make Manicures Toxic

Nevada has more large nail salons than any other state, but new research has found a troubling health issue lurking at them. 

A study published this week in the journal Environmental International found high levels of the chemical Diphenyl phosphate, or DPHP, in women who had just painted their nails. DPHP is created when the body metabolizes Triphenyl phosphate (TPHP), a common component of flame retardants. 

“The levels that we saw increase as a result of nail polish application went up by nearly 7-fold within 10 to 14 hours, so it was a significant increase and it was surprising because we really thought the main source of exposure was fire retardants.”

That’s Dr. Johanna Congleton, with Environmental Working Group, a co-author of the study along with researchers from Duke University and Boston University.

In animal studies, TPHP has been linked to both obesity and reproductive issues. In addition to being surprised that nail polish delivered such a high dose of the chemical, Congleton says researchers were shocked to find that it was the polish on the nail that was the problem. 

“We thought inhalation would be a bigger concern and more of a route of exposure.”

That’s important information for Nevada’s booming nail industry. According to Nails Magazine’s annual industry data report, the Silver State boasts one of the highest ratios of salons to consumers – one nail salon for every 625 women. California, which has more total nail salons than any state, has about one for every 6000 women. Congleton cautions TPHP may also be an issue for Nevada’s 11,000 nail technicians, who risk chronic exposure.

Amy Westervelt is a former contributor at KUNR Public Radio.