You've probably heard by now that a new study conducted by Duke University and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) found toxic chemicals from nail polish in women's bodies. The chemical, known as triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) has been found in some of our favorite brands, like OPI, Sally Hansen and Wet N Wild, and can contribute to weight gain and obesity.
But don't throw out your nail polish just yet.
Yes, the new study may sound scary, but when speaking with Dr. Heather Stapleton, professor at Duke University and lead investigator of the study, we learned more about the particulars. The truth is, we don't actually know what TPHP will do to our bodies, and in what quantity we need to absorb it for it to have an effect.
For the study, the researchers' main goal was to find how much TPHP is in nail products (even those that don't list it) and whether or not women are absorbing it during their manis and pedis.
They ultimately found that yes, TPHP is entering our bodies through our nails. Testing eight samples of nail polish (some of which came from our favorite brands listed above), the researchers found a TPHP concentration of 1.68 percent. But what really matters is that when researchers took urine samples of women who painted their nails, they found the levels of TPHP in their body increased to seven times the normal amount. The chemical remained in their bodies for up to 14 hours after painting their nails.
What happened next to these women? Well, they're still looking into it.
"We don't fully understand the human health risks from exposure, but the [Environmental Protection Agency] has prioritized TPHP for a full risk assessment," Heather told us in an email. "We know that high exposure in animals results in reproductive problems, affects on lipid metabolism and heart development."
So far, we know that TPHP is an endocrine disruptor in animals, meaning that the chemical has the ability to mess up hormones, leading to cancer, birth defects and other developmental disorders.
But whether or not these effects are observed in humans was not actually covered by the study.
"Only one human study has been conducted to date (that' I'm aware of)...and that was in a small group of men," she said. "That study found that higher levels of the TPHP metabolite in men's urine was significantly associated with lower sperm concentrations and lower sperm motility."
We requested a comment from OPI, but a representative did not reply.
Basically, the verdict is this: TPHP shouldn't be in our nail polish. It's a potentially hazardous chemical, and we definitely don't deny that. But, we still are unfamiliar with what this chemical does to us. Levels of TPHP in the body after painting our nails may not be large enough for the chemical to actually hurt us. Also, if the chemical does have an effect, it may not be the same one we've observed in animals. Our body is pretty good about getting rid of toxins (that's what our liver is for!), so don't panic just yet.
Our advice: Look out for the chemical in your nail polish, but don't forgo your weekend spa nights with the girls.