On June 10, the US government issued a report declaring formaldehyde, used in a variety of consumer products including nail polish and hair-straightening solutions, to be a carcinogen. Another chemical cited as a potential cancer trigger is styrene, commonly found in plastic and rubber products.
Consumers are advised to do what they can to avoid the harmful chemicals, but The New York Times reports that the risks are far greater for those who work with the chemicals on an industrial scale.
Formaldehyde is found in products ranging from plywood, paper product coatings, and plastics, as well as nail polish and nail polish removers and hair straighteners. Experts advise using formaldehyde-free beauty nail polishes and removers. To find out suggested brands, visit the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep website to search a database of beauty products, review ingredient listings, and see safety rankings.
The Brazilian Blowout, the costly, frizz-free hair treatment favored by celebs including Jennifer Aniston, has recently been under scrutiny by government officials for containing up to 12 percent formaldehyde.
After receiving complaints from customers and stylists about burning eyes, nose, and throat, breathing difficulties, and one report of hair loss associated with use of the product, the government agency Health Canada conducted tests on the solution and issued a news release on the dangers of the product last year.
In the US, the Oregon Health and Science University's Center for Research on Occupational and Environment Toxicology (Oregon OSHA) also warned salon workers to use caution when using the product, with some salons following suit by wearing masks and informing clients of the risks.
Read tips on ingredients to avoid in your beauty treatments and cosmetics: http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/08/beyond-parabens.php
Access Skin Deep’s database: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/browse.php?category=nail%20polish
Access the US government's just-released report of known or suspected carcinogens: http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/go/roc12