State chemical regulators say the products were mislabeled and have the potential to harm thousands of women who work in nail salons and their customers.
A new report found these mislabeled nail polishes pose a serious health risk. Experts say nail salon workers who are constantly around the so-called "toxic trio" of chemicals face a heightened exposure.
In the nail salon industry, more and more customers and workers are demanding that products be free of what's called the "toxic trio": toluene, formaldehyde and dibutyl phthalate (DBP).
But in a random sampling, the California Department of Toxic Substances Control found 10 of 12 products that claimed to be free of at least one of those chemicals actually were not.
"We care about those things because those are hazardous chemicals that can cause harm to people. Simply, they cause reproductive toxicity. They cause harm to women who might be pregnant, and over the long term and with enough exposure, they're just bad for you," said Karl Palmer, pollution prevention performance manager, Dept. of Toxic Substance Control.
The state says there are about 48,000 nail salons in California and more than 100,000 licensed nail technicians, most of whom are young Asian-American women working in tight quarters often poorly ventilated.
"It interferes with nail salon workers' right to a healthy and safe workplace environment and also a worker's right to know," said Julia Liou, Asian Health Services planning and development manager.
Some employees wear masks to shield them from the chemicals, but most do not.
Miss Professional Nail Products, which makes some of the polishes on the state list, told the Associated Press it disputes the report's findings and will challenge it.
Customer Allyson Witt says it's good to know when something is harmful, but doesn't see many women changing their habits.
"To be honest, I guess vanity comes into it and the pampering. It's just being honest," said Witt.
Still, activists say more needs to be done.
"We're calling for the prioritization of increased resources for government agencies to conduct random ingredient testing. We are calling for enforcement of false advertising laws," said Julia Liou.
Attorney General Kamala Harris will now examine the data to make sure companies will comply before making any decision on legal action.
Proposition 65 is a state law that requires manufacturers to disclose harmful chemicals on all of their consumer products.
Among the products that the state says were mislabeled:
1. Sation 99 Basecoat
2. Station 53 Red-Pink Nail Color
3. Dare To Wear Nail Lacquer
4. Chelsea 650 Baby's Breath Nail Lacquer
5. New York Summer Nail Color
6. Paris Spicy 298 Nail Lacquer
7. Sunshine Nail Lacquer
8. Cacie Sun Protection Topcoat
9. Cacie Light Free Gel Basecoat
10. Golden Girl Top Coat
11. Nail Art Top-N-Seal And High Gloss Top Coat