It must have been a busy weekend in New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office: After the New York Times detailed the toxic and unfair work environments facing nail salon workers in Friday’s paper, on Monday the governor’s office announced “emergency measures” to remedy the situation.
The situation shines a spotlight on our broken toxic chemical regulatory system. Because they are considered “trade secrets,” personal care manufacturers are not required to share information with the FDA; the Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel is supposed to review ingredient safety.
Yet the panel has assessed just a few since the board was created in 1976, including nail polish ingredients formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate, all three of which were determined to be safe, despite the fact that they have been linked to human health problems including cancer, miscarriages and birth defects. This might have something to do with the fact that the CIR is financed by the Personal Care Products Council itself.
In 2005, when California lawmakers tried to restrict DBP–banned in the European Union–from nail polish, lobbyists “flooded the State Capitol…bearing gift baskets of lipstick and nail polish” and managed to kill the bill, according to the New York Times. Even so, many nail product manufacturers have voluntarily removed the “big three” from polishes; there is even a “healthy nail salon” project in California urging owners to carry less-toxic polishes and to ventilate their salons.
So it might take some major news backing–and a social media conscious governor–to grow awareness on a national level, starting with one powerful state: According to Cuomo’s camp, as of today a new multiagency task force will assess all the nail salons in New York.