Entries in Toxic Chemicals (6)


Toxic Nail Polish? Steps You Can Take to Minimize Health Risk

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(SACRAMENTO, Calif.) -- Although the state of California reported finding a "toxic trio" of ingredients in some inaccurately labeled nail polishes, there's no need to give up those mani-pedis in the name of health.

"Manufacturers have broken the level of trust with the public and with the nail salon community," said Julia Liou, co-founder of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, on Tuesday before appearing with state officials to discuss the findings of the report.

"No one can trust the labels," Liou said. 

The report said that some nail polish manufacturers are making claims on their product labels to be free of the "toxic trio" of chemicals linked to cancer, asthma and birth defects, even though state testing of 25 products in some cases detected them.

While accepting that some labeling may be unreliable and could be improved, consumers who want painted nails also should think about where they're having their nails done.  Air quality inside a salon is important no matter how often patrons come in.  It's even more important to the thousands of licensed manicurists -- 121,000 in California alone -- who may breathe chemical fumes 10 hours a day, seven days a week, said Liou, a public health administrator at Asian Health Services in Oakland, who is among advocates pressing for better ventilation to dissipate the concentrated chemical vapors.

In its "Safer Nail Salons," report, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control tested 25 randomly selected nail polishes and thinners for three common chemicals that make nail lacquers shiny, quick-drying and flexible.

One of the three toxins, the aromatic solvent toluene, can irritate the eyes, throat and lungs, damage the nervous system and potentially harm an unborn child.  Dibutyl phthalate (DBP), which keeps polish from becoming brittle, also can cause reproductive harm.  Formaldehyde, a nail hardener also used in a wide variety of products including air fresheners and the Brazilian Blowout hair straightener, is a known carcinogen.

Tests found toluene in 10 of a dozen products labeled toluene-free, and also identified at least one member of the toxic trio in five of seven products labeled as "three-free."

Despite the chemical exposures inherent in applying base coats, color, top coats and nail-hardeners to fingernails and toenails in the name of beauty, here are some ways to reduce health risks:

-- Consider water-based polishes like those made by Acquarella, which don't give off fumes, instead of solvent-based polishes, said Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

-- Try brands like OPI and Sally Hansen, which have made concerted efforts to eliminate the most toxic chemicals from their nail polishes since the European Union banned the use of DBP in cosmetics in 2004 and a 2006 public campaign put pressure on the $6 billion nail care products industry to make formula changes, said Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

-- Keep children and toddlers out of nail salons.

-- If you have a child who insists on having or attending birthday parties where nail decoration is part of the fun, think about sending her off with her own supply of a non-toxic polish from Hopscotch Kids, suggests Jennifer Taggart, a Los Angeles consumer products attorney, blogger and author of The Smart Mama's Green Guide.

-- Try to find a well-ventilated spot when you visit a nail salon.  Consider sitting close to an open window, or step outside for some fresh air, Malkan said.

-- Do-it-yourselfers should choose well-ventilated areas for at-home manicures and pedicures.

-- Reduce or eliminate your visits to nail salons as soon as you know you're pregnant.  The developing fetus is particularly sensitive to the volatile chemicals in polishes and thinners.

-- Manicurists should consider working in a well-ventilated salon.  Even better, they should have exhaust hoods at their nail stations, Malkan said.  They also should consider wearing masks and gloves to protect lungs and skin from chemical irritants.

-- If you're concerned about ingredients in your favorite brands of nail polish, Malkan suggested going to the Skin Deep online safety database, created by the Environmental Working Group, which ranks products from 0 to 10, and choose products at the lower end of the scale, from 0 to 2.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'New Car Smell': Honda Civic Scores Best on Toxic Chemical Report ARBOR, Mich.) -- When car buyers pull out of a dealer's lot with the latest models, there's almost nothing more indicative of their brand new purchases than that "new car smell."  But what many drivers may not know is that the appealing aroma is actually a blend of toxic chemicals that could make you sick.

"What people don't realize is the new car smell is actually the smell of chemicals.  These are chemicals that are in the interior of vehicles -- plastics, adhesives and fabrics," said Jeff Gearhart, the research director at the Ecology Center, which released its fourth annual consumer guide to toxic chemicals in cars on Wednesday.

After testing over 200 of the most popular 2011-2012 models, the report found that the Honda Civic scored the best in ranking this year.

"This year Honda was our best performing company in terms of their vehicles.  Honda led the pack in terms of PVC reduction. They phased out the use of PVC in almost their entire fleet of vehicles," Gearhart said.

Honda's CR-Z also placed in the top three.  The Toyota Prius came in second.

Among the worst offenders were the Chrysler 200 SC, the Kia Soul and the Mitsubishi Outlander Sport, which came in last.  The Ecology Center said the Outlander "contained bromine and antimony-based flame retardants in the seating and center console; chromium treated leather on several components; and over 400 ppm lead in seating materials."

As Gearhart explained, "These chemicals can have a wide range of impacts.  Liver toxicity, hormone disruption, reproductive impacts as well as cancer."

So how can new car drivers reduce their exposure to these chemicals?

"They should ventilate the car frequently before they enter it.  Using a solar shade on the windshield to help minimize the heat and solar exposure in the vehicle," he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Not Just Arsenic: Scientists Spot Many Chemicals in Food

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- People may have been surprised to find out this week that apple juice contains arsenic, but scientists say that many foods contain trace levels of compounds that sound scary but are virtually harmless at low levels.

"Arsenic is something we all take in," said ABC News' chief health and medical correspondent, Dr. Richard Besser.  "We take in small amounts of a lot of things that if you take in large quantities are dangerous, but in small amounts aren't."

Besides arsenic, the Food and Drug Administration keeps tabs on a variety of chemicals and compounds that are present in small amounts in foods.

Dioxins, chemical compounds that come from burning fuels and waste incineration, can be found in trace levels in foods with animal fats, like meat, fish and dairy products.

Acrylamide, a chemical linked to cancer and nerve damage with high exposure, accumulates in small, harmless amounts in potato or grain products when they are fried, roasted or baked.

Fish and shellfish are safe to eat, even though they certain types contain mercury.

Even bananas contain low levels of radioactive potassium.

The FDA says that consumers are in no danger from these compounds and should eat a balanced diet made up of many foods.

Dr. David Acheson, who directs food and import safety for Leavitt Partners, said it's important to understand how much of those compounds is safe to consume.

"If you analyze food down to the molecular level, you'll find many things that are really scary if you take them literally," Acheson said.  "It's not just the presence or absence of a compound that's important, but the levels at which they are present."

Dr. Mehmet Oz caused a stir last week by saying on his national program, The Dr. Oz Show, that many popular brands of apple juice contain arsenic.  Scientists and the FDA agree that apple juice does contain arsenic, but add that the element is present in such small amounts that it is harmless.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Chemical Suicides: Quick Deaths, Public Health Hazards

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- For more than three years now, news reports have painted eerily similar pictures of Americans killing themselves with toxic fumes: a man or woman slumped lifelessly over a steering wheel, windows up, doors locked, buckets or bottles of household chemicals nearby and homemade signs warning of poisonous gases inside.

From San Diego to Siesta Key, Florida, at least 37 people have died after mixing up baneful brews that in most of the cases cloaked them in invisible clouds of hydrogen sulfide so concentrated that one whiff can kill.  A few of them used similarly lethal hydrogen cyanide gas.

Local, state and federal agencies including the Justice Department have been monitoring the cases, although none have released official tallies. They trace the U.S. incidents to a rash of similar deaths in Japan, a country with high suicide rates.

In March 2008, Miyuki Asou, a Japanese actress who had recently appeared in pornographic films, committed "detergent suicide."  In the first half of 2008, more than 500 other Japanese killed themselves with instructions easily accessible online.  When a 14-year-old girl from Konan, Japan, committed detergent suicide in her bathroom, she inadvertently sickened 90 residents of an apartment building, demonstrating that chemical suicides pose public health hazards.

Whether they extinguish their lives in cars, or in college dormitories, apartments, homes or hotels, those who perish this way unwittingly endanger the lives of passersby or emergency response teams.

After a laboratory worker killed himself in his pickup truck on Dec. 21, 2009, four Kansas City, Missouri firefighters and one of the man's relatives were taken to a hospital after exposure to hydrogen cyanide.  He hadn't posted any warnings.

Emergency operations and law enforcement agencies have scrambled to use such examples to educate employees about donning breathing masks and hazmat suits before getting close to chemical suicide sites.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Jessica Alba Lobbies DC for Safer Chemicals in Products

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Actress Jessica Alba came to Capitol Hill Tuesday to lobby members on an issue close to her heart: banning toxic chemicals in consumer products.

Alba is joining forces with the Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families coalition in calling on Congress to pass the Safe Chemicals Act.  She told reporters that when she became pregnant with her first child four years ago, "it immediately changes the way you look at things," and it led her to discover the field of children's environmental health.

"The choices you make about your diet and lifestyle can have a profound impact on the health of your child.  You learn to get the right nutrition for your developing baby like folic acid, which is also great for your nails and your hair -- so you can continue taking that, us girls know this trick," Alba joked.  "Avoid anything that can be harmful to your child, particularly pesticides, alcohol, tobacco -- the stuff that we're all aware of."

Alba began following Safer Chemicals, Healthy Families on Twitter, and the organization later reached out to the actress to join forces.

"It has been well established for years that children are especially vulnerable to toxic chemicals because their bodies are still developing.  The vulnerability starts even before birth.  I was aware of problems like air and water pollution but I was shocked to learn that it is perfectly legal to have known toxic chemicals in consumer products that are on our shelves," she added.  "Like most people, I thought the government regulated chemicals the way they regulated drugs.  I was wrong."

The 30-year-old Alba called on Congress "to step in and ensure that chemicals are safe before our children are exposed to them"  and pass the law as a gift to her unborn baby.

"As you may have heard, I will be having my second child soon, and it would be wonderful if Congress could pass this legislation in time for his or her arrival.  Don't send us flowers, no fruit baskets.  Instead, let's all give the gift of health to each other with the Safe Chemicals Act," Alba said.  "This is a common sense law.  This isn't a political issue, it's a human issue, and our children should be healthy."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


EPA to Set Regulations on Chemicals in Drinking Water

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Environmental Protection Agency announced Wednesday it will develop a regulation for perchlorate and several other toxic chemicals found in drinking water.

The EPA's decision comes after the agency's administrator, Lisa Jackson, asked scientists to thoroughly look into the "emerging science of perchlorate."  Scientific research shows that the naturally occurring and man-made chemical may affect how the thyroid gland functions.

Along with perchlorate, the EPA is also looking to set standards for 16 toxic chemicals found in drinking water that could be hazardous to humans.

“Clean water is critical to the health and prosperity of every American community and a fundamental concern to every American family.  EPA is hard at work on innovative ways to improve protections for the water we drink and give to our children, and the development of these improved standards is an important step forward,” Jackson said.  “Our decisions are based on extensive review of the best available science and the health needs of the American people.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio