San Francisco passed an ordinance in October 2010 that gives a "green seal" to salons that voluntarily choose to use nail polishes free of the three chemicals included in the DTSC's report. New York City had a similar ordinance to recognize salons that choose products devoid of the toxic trio.
"We are alarmed by the results of this report," Julia Liou, co-founder of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative and a public health administrator for Asian Health Services, said in a statement. "The misbranding of products is not only a major public health problem, but also interferes with a salon worker's right to a safe and healthy work environment."
DBP has been banned in nail products in the European Union, which has strict limits on the amount of formaldehyde and toluene that can be used.
Doug Schoon, a scientist who works with the Nail Manufacturers Council, agreed that mislabeling products should never be done, but said that proper ventilation and training of salon workers are much more important to preventing health problems. He said the levels of toluene and other chemicals found in the nail polishes did not pose a serious threat.
He said the "need for appropriate ventilation for the work you're doing, whether it be in printing shops or other workplaces, is a huge area of opportunity that the (DTSC) should be focusing on."
The California attorney general's office said it will have to review DTSC's findings before making a decision on any legal action.
"We will need to examine the data for compliance with Prop. 65 and other state laws," said Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office.
Proposition 65 is a state law that requires that all harmful chemicals in a product be revealed by the manufacturer. It requires warning signs be posted in areas where consumers could be exposed.
Mike Vo, vice president of Miss Professional Nail Products Inc., the maker of the Sation products and others on the list, said he disputed DTSC's findings.
"We will look at the report and challenge it," he said.
The DTSC found Dare to Wear polish contained small traces of toluene even though it was labeled as free of the chemical. Newton Luu, owner of LeChat Nail Care Products, which makes the polish, said he had no idea where the toluene could have come from.
"We as a manufacturer do not use toluene in our nail polish, or any of those three," Luu said. "Perhaps the polish was contaminated through the lab tests or by some other method."
A legal expert on environmental law, Thomas J.P. McHenry, said that if the state attorney general decides to act on the report and nail polish makers are unsuccessful at fighting it, then "the retailers and manufacturers of these products may be subject to litigation and liability exposure."
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