WHAT IS IT? Formerly known as toluol, toluene is a clear, water-insoluble liquid with the typical, distinctive smell of paint thinner. A common solvent able to dissolve paints, paint thinners, silicone sealants, many chemical reactants, rubber, printing ink, adhesives (glues), lacquers, leather tanners and disinfectants, toluene is not a chemical you can imagine wanting in or near your body. In the cosmetics world, toluene is one of the solvents used in the formulation of nail products.
HEALTH RISKS: A nervous-system toxin and volatile organic compound used to help nail polish paint on smoothly and adhere evenly to the nail, toluene is primarily used as an octane booster in gasoline fuels for internal combustion engines. In addition to causing eye irritation, headaches, dizziness and nausea, high amounts of toluene can also lead to birth defects and developmental abnormalities, along with liver and kidney damage.
The International Fragrance Association has stated this chemical to be unsafe for use in cosmetics and the CIR has put restrictions on its concentration limits and use. The EPA states toluene to be a known human respiratory toxicant with other organ system toxicity concerns of one or more biological systems in the body, such as cardiovascular, stomach and digestive systems. Another health concern is the possibility of contamination with benzene – a known carcinogen which is also banned by Canada and the EU for use in cosmetics. Of course, the US Food and Drug Administration does not require that cosmetics products be tested for safety before they are sold to consumers.
BEWARE! Toluene may appear on ingredients labels as phenylmethane, methylbenzene or toluol.
MAKE A CHANGE: Find nail polishes and removers free from toluene and other harmful chemicals! Check out our list that names a few of our favorites: Manicure Makeunder: The Best Non-Toxic Products For A Perfect 10.