November 2000

In September 2000, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that every single one of the 289 persons tested for the plasticizer dibutyl phthalate (DBP) had the compound in their bodies. The most critical population, women of childbearing age whose fetuses are exposed in the womb, appear to receive the highest exposures.

Government researchers speculate that the elevated levels of DBP among women of childbearing age come from cosmetics and beauty products, but no one has done the studies to test this hypothesis. As a first step in discovering some major sources, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) shopped at a local Rite-Aid, surfed the on-line store Drugstore.com, and searched the U.S. patent office records for products that contain DBP in the patent application. We found DBP in 37 popular nail polishes, top coats, and hardeners, including products by L’Oréal, Maybelline, Oil of Olay, and CoverGirl.