Consumer protection in Hong Kong

Cancer-causing chemicals found in children’s nail polish, Hong Kong’s Consumer Council says

Watchdog suggests parents stop letting children use polish containing benzene

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 January, 2017, 4:46pm
UPDATED : Friday, 20 January, 2017, 12:41pm

Children’s nail polishes have been found to contain a cancer-causing substance, heavy metals, and in one case a hormone-disrupting chemical, according to the city’s consumer watchdog.

The Consumer Council tested 13 different brands of nail polish, and found that three of them contained benzene, a carcinogenic liquid used in the rubber industry.

These brands included, hinkler Zap!, npw Mood Maker, and Style Me Up!

“We suggest parents should stop using this type of benzene-containing nail polish,” Professor Michael Hui King-man, chairman of the council’s publicity and community relations committee, said.

Benzene is prohibited in the production of cosmetics on the mainland and in the European Union.

And the council’s chief executive Gilly Wong Fung-han said: “[Painting nails] is a very common parent-child activity. If you want to pursue this activity you have to select safe nail polishes for your kids.”

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She said “many girls love to buy these kinds of products for their little dolls and they never take it off [the dolls],” leading to the polish peeling off over time, for the child to possibly eat.

“If they put it on their nails, it could easily be absorbed in to the [body’s] circulation,” Baptist Univeristy biology Professor Chris Wong Kong-chu said.

“The effect would be quite similar for kids or adults. If there's oxidation to DNA there will be the possibility OF DNA mutation... that may come to a point where our body system cannot fix it effectively and then that may lead to the possibility of developing a tumour.”

The council also found heavy metals – including trace amounts of the potentially harmful metals lead, arsenic, and cadmium – in 11 out of 13 samples. But, the council noted, the levels were all in accordance with rules on the mainland, where the products were made.

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The npw-branded nail polish was also found to contain 1,500ppm of dibutyl phthalate, also known as DBP, a plasticiser which can disrupt hormones and reproduction if ingested. The European Union’s Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety sets the highest safe level for DBP at 100ppm.

“Many countries have disallowed this type of phthalate for use in children’s products,” Hui said.

The watchdog said the brands were marketed as non-toxic or specifically targeted at children, making parents believe they were safe to use.

“Even if the product is safe, don’t use it too often and don’t allow the product to be left on fingernails for too long,” Hui said.

Children who tend to put their fingers in their mouths should avoid using these products, Hui said, adding that children should remove the polish before eating, to avoid ingesting it.

The Post reached out to the three nail polish brand, but did not receive a reply by press time.