Debate is heating up on whether chemicals called phthalates, found in certain nail polishes and other cosmetics, may have adverse long-term health effects in humans, such as cancer, birth defects, mutations, and lowered sperm count in men. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has launched a “Compact for Safe Cosmetics,” asking companies to pledge not to use the dangerous substances in their products, according to Grist magazine. Over 400 companies have signed the pledge so far, and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is pushing for large cosmetic companies, such as Avon, Proctor & Gamble, and Unilever to sign, as well, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
The most controversial phthalates is dibutyl phthalate (DBP), often found in popular nail polishes. The long-term effects of DBP have not been studied in humans, but have been found to have adverse effects in lab animals. The European Union decided to ban phthalates and other chemicals linked to cancer in cosmetics in 2004. While the EU found DBP and other phthalates unsafe for use in 25 countries, no similar ban has yet been enacted in the US. Some companies, forced by the EU to create different formulas for their products, have decided to use the European formula worldwide. Many companies though, such as OPI, Essie, and Sally Hansen, have not, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.