California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has proposed listing nail products containing toluene as its latest priority product under its Safer Consumer Products program. If adopted, responsible parties will need to undertake remove impacted products from sale in California or undertake an alternatives analysis in order to continue selling in California.

The Safer Consumer Products regulation

California’s Safer Consumer Products regulation restricts the use of certain chemicals when used in specified products, based on various human health and the environmental risk factors. These product-chemical combinations are called “Priority Products.” When DTSC finalizes a Priority Product, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers must either conduct an alternatives analysis of the chemical, or remove the product from sale in California. The alternatives analysis can lead to identification of a safer alternative, or determine that there is no safer alternative–at which point DTSC can impose restrictions on use.

Priority products currently subject to SCP regulations include:

  • Paint or varnish paint strippers containing methylene chloride
  • Spray polyurethane foam with unreacted MDI
  • Children’s foam-padded sleeping products with the flame retardants TDCPP or TCEP

In addition to nail products with toluene, DTSC has also proposed the following as priority products:

  • Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs) in carpets and rugs
  • Laundry detergents containing the surfactants nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs)
  • Paint and varnish strippers and graffiti removers containing n-methylpyrrolidone (NMP)

What is toluene?

Toluene is used as a solvent in a variety of nail products, including polishes, hardeners and thinners, and according to DTSC, has been detected in indoor air in nail salons and in the breathing zones of nail salon workers. DTSC also states that toluene exposure has been linked to health effects including adverse nervous system effects, respiratory tract effects, and developmental toxicity.

Next Steps

DTSC has released a draft technical report which discusses the scientific basis for listing nail products containing toluene. A public workshop will be held on March 13, 2019, and DTSC will accept public comments through March 15, 2019.

This is only the beginning of the regulatory review process—it is possible there will be additional revisions to the proposal and further opportunity for public comment—we anticipate it could take a year, and likely more, to get to a final regulation.