At the urging of activists and consumers with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, OPI Products has reformulated its nail polish to remove the hazardous solvent toluene. The Campaign, founded by a coalition of advocacy groups in 2004, used mock beauty pageant protests, letters, meetings, and a national ad campaign to lobby OPI.
Toluene, a solvent added to nail polish to make application smoother (and added to gasoline to increase octane ratings), is characterized as a “probable human carcinogen” by the American Cancer Society (ACS) and is on California’s Proposition 65 list of chemicals known to cause reproductive and developmental deformities.
Women’s Voices for the Earth, a founding member of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, is a feminist environmental justice organization that has created a “Compact for Safe Cosmetics.” The compact has companies pledge to create products without using chemicals known or suspected to be harmful. They also released a report called “Glossed Over: Health Hazards Associated with Toxic Exposure in Nail Salons” that examines the health effects of toxic chemicals used daily by women nail technicians. The report notes that 95 percent of nail technicians are women and 38 percent of them are Vietnamese. The report outlines the problems these women face and offers recommendations to decrease health risks.
OPI, which does not test its product on animals, said that the amount of the chemicals in their products is well below EU and FDA standards, but acknowledged that removing them is a step in the right direction.