The Science of Nails

Toluene Exposure Warning Signs Mailed to California Technicians

California nail technicians recently receive a letter from a group of professional nail polish manufacturers describing what toluene, a solvent use in nail polish, is and what health effects it can have if user is overexposed.

California nail technicians recently receive a letter from a group of professional nail polish manufacturers describing what toluene, a solvent use in nail polish, is and what health effects it can have if user is overexposed.

As part of their 1994 agreement with As You Sow, an environmental activist, the manufacturers must send the letter each year to all licensed California nail technicians. As You Sow had sued nail polish manufacturers under California’s Proportion to require them to warn consumers as well, but the California State Attorney General’s office rules that, based on result of a study conducted by the Nail Manufacturers Council (NMC), warning were only required for professional technicians. This is the second year California technicians have received the letter.

The letters are accompanied by the sign that must be posted in an area where nail technicians and other salon workers see it. Rest assured: although toluene is known to cause reproductive harm if an individual is overexposed to it, Proposition 65 requires a posted warning when the exposure to the chemical is greater than 1/1,000 of the known safe level of exposure. The NMC’s study showed that the average nail technician us exposed to less than the level requiring is exposed to less than the level requiring a warning. Because some technicians are exposed to higher levels, however, a warning is required for all. Even so, the highest exposure recorded by the NMC was still much less than the “no observable effect level,” which is considered safe.

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