Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday's 3Rs -- What to do with nail polish

Photo by Shari Weinsheimer

TGIF's 3Rs!

I learned disturbing news about nail polish this week -- stuff I should've known a long time ago, but hey, I can only keep up with so much!

For one thing, the ingredients in many nail polishes can cause birth defects when used by pregnant women. Don't you think they should have warnings about that printed somewhere on the bottles?

The info I'm referring to regarding the dangers of nail polishes can be found in the Guide to Less Toxic Products from the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia. What's nice about this guide is that it doesn't just give you scary facts, but it also lists safe (or at least, safer) alternatives for household and personal care products. It's really worth checking out and adding to your Favorites file.

Here's what the Guide says about nail polish:

Three of the most harmful ingredients in conventional nail polish are toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate -- dubbed the "toxic trio" by the US Environmental Working Group. Toluene is known to be a neurotoxin and may put pregnant women at risk of having a baby with birth defects or delayed development. Toluene may comprise up to 50% of the volume in some brands.

After reading that, I looked down at my recently polished nails (something I hadn't had in months!) and I cringed. What had I done? Well, maybe, I reassured myself, I used one of the safe brands. No such luck.

Faced with a small hatbox full of polishes dating back to the 80s, I'm afraid, I pondered what to do with them.

First of all, I want to dispose of them and start all over with brands void of the "toxic trio." But how does one dispose of nail polish?

Thus, today's post.

Of course, I couldn't simply dump the box into the trash can. The stuff's toxic, for goodness' sake! And, I was reasonably sure I couldn't dump it into the recycling bin either. What to do? What to do?

I found that researching this dilemma didn't provide any easy answers. Most of what I found was creative ways to use your old nail polish other than putting it on your nails. Wonderful. A bunch of useless tips on how to spread the toxic love around. No, thank you.

The thing is, according to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), nail polish falls under the category of household hazardous waste (doesn't that make you feel just dandy?). Since it is a flamable substance, it considered hazardous and is illegal to put in the landfills. Oops. I wonder how many times in my early, less eco-conscious years I broke that law!

Apparently, most curbside recycling programs won't take it either. (Check with your municipality about this). So, the only solution is a hazardous waste pick-up or drop-off location. To find one close to you, visit and type in 'nail polish' and your zip code.

For me, three locations popped up -- one where you had to be a resident, one that was about 45 minutes away, and another in Ohio. Great. Wonderful.

So, here's the scoop. Hang on to your nail polishes (and be careful which ones you use) if you don't have a nearby location to dump them. Eventually, there will be some kind of Recycle Rama-type event close to you and, hopefully, they'll accept these eco-nasty bottles of toxins from you.

Just don't toss them in the trash. When your husband asks what the pile of half-used bottles of nail polish are doing in a box in the attic, just say, "Green Grandma told me to hang on to them." That should appease him.

Trying to keep it green with Friday's 3Rs,


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