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Environmental connections to public health >>

Please don't paint her toes

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Last week I took my kids for a haircut. We go to a terrific woman in our neighborhood who runs a hair salon out of her house, and she's cut my kids hair since their very first cut. She's warm, patient and loves my kids. While my 6-year-old son was squirming in her chair, she offered to have her daughter paint my 3-year old's toenails.

Since I'm hardly a fan of carcinogenic ingredients and am unsure which nail polishes contain them and which have removed them, I said no.

Saying "no" can be hard. Saying no, of course, is far easier said than done. Oh, I can say no to my 3-year-old (do it all the time), but I also had to say no to this super nice woman who made a generous offer to please my daughter. Slightly trickier, right?

So I explained to my crying daughter that we can't paint her toe nails because the polish might have toxic ingredients that "aren't healthy for her body" (my kids hear this all too often). All said, of course, in front of our friendly hairdresser whose judgment I was insulting. Ugh.

How it should be. What was running through my mind during this noisy, teary, confusing conversation was how great it would be if I could have said,

Sure, Ana, that sounds fun. You're really nice to offer. Georgia, would you like to have your toenails painted?

But I couldn't. And I won't until I can be confident that the personal care products being sold in this country are safe. Safe for me, super safe for my growing kids. But there's no way to be sure, because our laws are far too weak.

What can you do? The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics offers this practical advice:

Look for less-toxic brands and formulations of nail polishes and treatments in Skin Deep, and practice BYOP -- bring your own polish -- on salon visits. Try buffing nails instead of lacquering, skip the mani and just get a pedi, limit polish use by children and pregnant women and always apply and remove polish in a well-ventilated area.

And be sure to read our Enviroblog post, "Making Makeup Safe for Kids." It covers nailpolish and more.

Be safe out there. There's a lot of unknowns.

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