Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) is listed as an ingredient in the glue used to fasten artificial nails.

Artificial nails can help you make a fashion statement. But user, beware: Putting them on involves glue and other chemicals that could cause allergic reactions and other health risks.

An alert is out on a China-made glue in some artificial nail sets that contains dibutyl phthalate (DBP), a known endocrine disrupting chemical (EDC) that may trigger allergic reactions, damage the reproductive system, cause birth defects or affect the development of a child. The glue is used to fasten plastic nails.

In the Philippines, over 10 brands of plastic nail sets being sold have been confirmed by health authorities to contain this harmful glue, says the toxics watchdog group Ecowaste Coalition which made the discovery. The brands are: Dudustrong, EM, Hodabeauty, Lulu Beauty, L&Y, ME, Mooa Rtynoy Korr, Q.Nail, Xucai and Xu Ri.

The ASEAN Cosmetic Directive has listed DBP among the substances that “must not form part of the composition of cosmetic products”. Due to its toxicity, DBP has been restricted in toys in the Philippines in concentrations exceeding 0.1%.

Assorted artificial nail sets with DBP-containing glue.

According to the Philippines Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “DBP has the ability to cause allergic reactions,” warning “there were previous cases where allergic response to DBP was found to be severe” and adding further “allergic reactions can induce a state of hypersensitivity in the immune system”.

“It can cause the immune system to respond to chemical exposures with immunological reactions that are harmful, varying from hives to life threatening responses such as anaphylactic shock, where low blood pressure and breathing difficulties can result in death,” the FDA explained.

In Europe, several countries have recalled at least 110 artificial nail sets with accompanying adhesive that contains DBP, chloroform, hydroquinone or tetrahydrofuran, the EcoWaste Coalition revealed.

According to the alerts issued by European governments, “chloroform can cause skin irritation and can damage health if inhaled or swallowed,” “hydroquinone can cause skin irritation and dermatitis,” and “tetrahydrofuran might cause cancer”.