Are pets at risk of secondary exposure to nail polish toxins?


Pet poison expert reveals the truth about these toxins and their potential health risks.

Veterinarians and their staff are constantly warning pet owners about the hidden dangers lurking in their home—plants, household cleaners, medications, and some foods are just a few examples. But what about beauty products, specifically nail polishes?

Although many nail products on the market today are labeled “toxin free” that might be a bit misleading. According to a recent California report, some nail polishes and other nail products used at salons and labeled toxin-free may have high levels of toxic chemicals. A team of researchers with the California Environmental Protection Agency bought 25 nail products and sent them to an independent lab for analysis. The products were tested for the presence of dibutyl phthalate, toluene, and formaldehyde—three chemicals known for their toxicity and potential health risks, especially to nail salon workers. Although many of the products had been labeled toxin-free, the results showed that some of the products still contained one or more of these chemicals. “The labeling does not always reflect the ingredients,” says Valetti Lang of the California Environmental Protection Agency.

While these findings may have an impact on those who work in nail salons or who frequently use nail products, DVM Newsmagazine turned to an expert to consider the health risk to pets, especially those that often lick the hands of their caregivers. It’s pretty slight, says Dr. Justine Lee, a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist and the Associate Director of Veterinary Services at Pet Poison Helpline. “In general, if the product is dry, it poses little threat when pets are exposed to veterinary staff using these products,” she says. “Due to a pet’s shorter life span and the lack of chronic exposure, I suspect there’s little true relay toxicity to our patients.”

Pet owners shouldn’t be concerned either, although Dr. Lee shares this for the overly cautious ones: “Spare your pet the shame and don’t paint your nails to be on the safe side.”

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