Raw Materials in the Production of Nail Polish
Nail polish has become a common cosmetic among households. Offered in thousands of colors, brands, types, and finishes, nail polish is a great way to enhance the appearance of one’s nail beds. How does this liquid material end up gliding over nail beds, drying and last for several days? Like many other materials today, it is uncommon for one to think about all the little processes and materials that go into making it. With each raw material comes energy usage and waste that finalize the product’s lifecycle. The life cycle of nail polish requires the extraction of raw materials such as polymers, plasticizers, pigments and solvents. By examining these materials, one can see how nail polish ends up being a hazardous product.
The use of nail polish throughout history has definitely evolved in terms of its use and its users. It can be traced back to as early as 3,200 BCE in Babylonian times where only war men wore nail polish. Archaeologists found manicure kits in the tombs of Babylonian soldiers (Segran). As time progressed to the early Chinese dynasties, aristocratic women would soak their nails in a combination of beeswax, gelatin, egg whites, dyes and gum arabic. Having these gems and long nails were a status symbol, showing that they did not undergo hard labor. Later on, manicures gained more popularity, more so in the United States where Mary Cobb opened up America’s first manicure parlor in Manhattan. Soon after, Cutex manufactured the first modern liquid nail polish which included nitrocellulose as its main ingredient. (Segran)
When thinking about what features and aspects make up a good quality nail polish, the things that come to mind are that it should apply easily, dry and harden quickly, resist chipping and peeling for a good amount of time, and essentially not be harmful in the long run (Schlossman). In order to make sure these requirements are upheld, the raw materials that go into nail polish are few but significant and essential. There are four main raw materials that go into the production of nail polish: these include film formers (nitrocellulose), plasticizers, pigments and solvents (Toedt, 49). Nitrocellulose is the most common film former in nail lacquers. In its raw state, nitrocellulose is highly explosive as it was originally used for gunpowder and blast mining. This primary film former comes from cotton or wood chips and is a naturally derived polymer as it is produced by nitrating cellulose (Patil). Because of its explosive nature, it has to be mixed with wetting agents such as water and alcohol.
There are many different types of plasticizers and resins that are used in the production of nail polish; it all depends on the manufacturer. Plasticizers, when added to a material, make it flexible and increase its plasticity and fluidity. In the market today, almost 90% of the market is for polyvinyl chloride (PVC) (Sevenster). Even though there is no one universal plasticizer used, the most common are camphor, which comes from a camphor tree and Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) (Schlossman). Dibutyl Phthalate is one of the controversial ingredients used in nail polish along with formaldehyde resin ("Secret Ingredient: Nail Polish"). Finally, the feature that makes nail polish a fashion statement is its variety of colors. Coloring pigments are added to nail polish to give it its color. Pigments used include those that are generally found in nail enamel compositions like yellow and iron oxides (Socci). Early nail polishes used soluble dyes but now pigments are the most effective and produce the best finish on the nails. In addition to color, the tone and finish of the nail polish can be altered with materials like mica. Mica is a mineral that is commonly used in cosmetics like lipstick and nail polish to give a shimmery look (“Mica for Nail Polish | Micamoma.com”). Other additives like fish scales allow for a more pearlescent finish. These pigments can only be held together by solvents that are added in the nail polish mixture. Solvents also make the liquid polish spreadable (Schoon). The most common solvents are ethyl alcohol, ethyl acetate, butyl acetate, and dimethicone ("Secret Ingredient: Nail Polish"). These solvents evaporate when in contact with the nail which leaves the pigment/resin on the nail surface and are also responsible for the strong odor in nail polishes (Agapakis). Solvents evaporate at different rates therefore a multitude of solvents are used to create the ideal evaporation time ("Secret Ingredient: Nail Polish").
Once all these raw materials have been acquired, they must be processed and manufactured together to make the final product. By combining nitrocellulose and plasticizers with colored pigments, nail polish is created. Modern day manufacturing utilizes advanced machinery and skilled workers to make sure the nail polish is correctly made. The process is similar to milling where ingredients are rolled to produce an even dispersion of the color and other ingredients. The mill grinds the pigment between rollers that increase in speed. After it is properly milled, the mixture is then broken up into small chips to mix with the solvent. This is performed in a stainless steel kettle ("Nail Polish"). Steel is used because nitrocellulose is extremely reactive in the presence of iron (Hill). Stainless steel is a metal that is versatile material which resists corrosion and rusting and is made from basic materials from the earth like iron ore ("Stainless Steel”). The kettle heating is performed in a facility that is explosion proof and kept at a controlled temperature to prevent hazards of fire and explosion. After the mixture is cooled it is then checked for color and quality control. Finally, the mixture is poured into 55 gallon metal drums. One of these drums can fill about 14,000 half-ounce bottles of polish (Hill). According to Orly, one of the famous nail polish companies, they have four bottle filling lines which fill about 80 bottles a minute (Hill). These bottles are then shipped via trucks for distribution for retail.
As the nail polish is ready for distribution, transportation is needed. Transportation requires the raw material of oil or coal. These trucks use oil and gas which is usually extracted from the ground by drilling into the earth which as a result, produces gasoline to power the trucks that transport the nail polish to and from facilities.
For the use of nail polish, no new materials are needed at this point in its life cycle. The nail polish bottle is ready to be bought by consumers like you and me. Nail polishes are found in salons and in households for personal use. Nail polish is a suspension product; this means that the materials and colors inside can only be held together for a relatively short period of time. This is why we usually shake the nail polish bottles before use so that the particles can be restored to the suspension. Nail polish bottles usually only last around two to three years maximum without settling too much. Settling is one of the main problems the manufactures have because most of the times it can never be restored (Winkler). Nail polish can also be reused in creative ways to make the most out of it. Some ways include color coding household items or decorating items or even threading needles easier; either way, there are ways to make sure you can make the most out of the nail polish before disposing it.
Excess materials from the production of nail polish is minimal. However, it is the proper disposal of nail polish has always been questioned as it is very toxic and flammable. Due to the controversial ingredients of Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP) and at times, formaldehyde, nail polish is seen as a hazardous waste. The phthalates in the chemicals are not easily broken down in water and this can be harmful to animals. The concentrate in the bodies of animals that live in the water can be absorbed through the skin (“Dibutyl Phthalate”). It is best to dispose of nail polish professionally through your local waste disposal.
In conclusion, the life cycle of nail polish requires a minimal amount of ingredients and raw materials; however, these basic components do end up being hazardous in the end. To recap, there is no one single formula for the production but the four main components found in nail polishes today are film formers, plasticizers, pigments, and solvents. Nail polish is known to be a household hazardous waste due to its toxic ingredients.
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Energy in the Life Cycle of Nail Polish
Nail polish is also known as lacquer is a liquid substance that sold in small bottles and applied using a small brush. One applies it on the nails and upon drying it forms a rather hard coating on the nails that is both water and dust resistant (Toedt). This paper will point out that the energy was changed and transferred in every different stages of the nail polish's life cycle, which included Nail polish's raw materials collecting, manufacturing, distribution, use and maintenance, and decomposition. Through the action of energy research in the life cycle of nail polish, people could understand this product comprehensively and try to develop some more energy efficient and more environmentally friendly measures for this product.
The raw material production of Nail polish costs a plenty of energy in the life cycle of nail polish, and these materials can be divided into several categories according to different functions. In general, Contemporary nail polish ingredients are synthetic organic materials and Inorganic chemical products. These materials are generally generated through a series of chemical reactions. The energy changes of chemical reactions usually presents the thermal energy changes. The essence of the chemical reaction is the old chemical bonds absorb energy and break. Then new chemical bonds generate. During this process, the mainly energy source is the industrial electricity provided by the factories and Power plants (Williams and Schmitt 160-165). The main ingredients of nail polish consist of a solvent. Commonly used solvents include ethyl alcohol, acetone, N-butyl acetate. The plasticizer, such as dibutyl phthalate, could make the product pliable and soft. Clay is also used to stabilize suspension of the polish, and a filler may be added such as the silica to give special effects to the product. Then there is the colorant which can be either organic or inorganic pigments. The other ingredient is the resin whose function is to enhance adhesion of the polish when applied. A popular resin is the nitrocellulose, which is one of the film formers, vinyl polymers and methacrylate. Due to most of them are chemical raw materials, their production process is similar. A good example is the primary raw material, nitrogen cellulose. It is not only flammable but also explosive in nature thus also used in the manufacture of dynamite. Nitrogen cellulose is a liquid composed of microscopic cotton fibers. For its manufacture, the first step is the transportation of cotton from the farm where fossil fuels is the main energy source used in the transportation. In the factory, there is treatment of the cotton, which is a source of the cellulose, using concentrated sulfuric acid and about 70% nitric acid. Here a lot of heat energy is required which can be provided by steam from boilers which could either be using electricity as their main form of energy or other sources like coal and timber. The heat energy acts as a catalyst in the process in order to form nitrogen cellulose as the final product (Rennie). There are particular types of nail polish that do not use nitrocellulose as their main ingredient. These polishes are known as the gel nail polish. Gel nail polish does not dry instantly like the nitrocellulose which dries out over time as the solvent evaporates. Drying gel polish requires that ultraviolet light be applied. When the ultraviolet energy is used, a chain reaction takes place transforming the liquid polish into a hardened layer of plastic (Mitchel P. Goldman 370-373).
After the processing of chemical plants, different raw materials are turned into a variety of chemical materials, and they will be sent to the nail polish manufacturing plants for further processing.
Manufacturing, Processing and Formulation
The modern manufacturing process of nail polish is quite sophisticated in nature, and it involves the use of sophisticated machines, which consume a lot of energy. First, there is the mixing of the nitrogen cellulose with the pigments and the plasticizer in two-roll differential speed mill. The differential speed mill uses electrical energy from the power grid, which power the huge motors of the machine. These motors are the ones used to drive the rollers enabling the mixing of the ingredients appropriately. Apparently, the electrical energy converts to mechanical energy in the motors, which drive the rollers whose main task is to grind the pigments thus produce a fine dispersion of color (Laba).
Once we achieve the full milling of the resin, its removal from the mill in sheet form takes place for it to be broken down for the next phase. The mixture of the solvent with the small chips occurs in the stainless steel kettle with a capacity of 2000 gallons. The use of stainless steel is crucial to prevent the reaction between the resin mixture and iron, which is exothermic in nature. Here huge motors drive the mixers used for the mixing of the small chips and the solvent. A lot of energy is required to sustain the rotors of steel kettles to ensure that complete mixing of the resin takes place (Milady 742-747). This energy also ensures the rotation of the rotor at a speed high enough for the process to take place. There is some energy supplied to the process in the form of heat in order to aid in the mixing of the small resin chips and the solvent. Despite the fact that some heat supplied to the process acts as a catalyst, the reaction is also exothermic thus, the designs of the kettle are in such a way that their design allows the smooth and efficient circulation of cooling water around the kettle. Huge pumps, which consume a lot of electrical energy, supply the cold water needed for the cooling process. The electrical energy converts to mechanical energy in the motor, which in turn drive the pumps used to supply the cooling water to the kettles. The process does not end here, addition of other materials such as perfume and moisturizers takes place and pumping of the mixture to other smaller 55gallons takes place. Afterwards, pumping of the nail polish mixture into the production line takes place allowing for the filling of the small nail polish bottles with the already manufactured nail polish. The production line has a series of motors, pumps, pneumatic controls and drives, which consume a lot of electrical energy, which in some instances converts to mechanical energy, such as in the cases of the motors, pumps and pneumatic controls the electrical energy converts to the kinetic energy for driving machines (Hein and Arena).
Energy is also involved in the manufacture of the bottles and the brushes used in the packing of the nail polish. Polyethylene is the main material used in the manufacture of the brushes. High temperatures are necessary for the heating of polyethylene for it to melt, meaning that there is supply of energy in the form of heat energy. The molding of the molten polyethylene next into small brushes follows next by use of molds. Brushes of long strands form hence used in the packing of the nail polish. We also employ the use of heat energy in the heating of sand, the main component of glass, in order for it to melt thus allowing for the molding of the molten glass into small bottles (DeGarmo).
During the manufacturing process, a plenty of energy is dissipated. The dissipated energy termed as the waste energy is evident in various stages of the manufacturing process. First in the manufacture of cellulose nitrate, a lot of heat is dissipated. This is because disregarding the initial heat applied to start the process the reaction is exothermic in nature thus dissipates a lot of energy into the atmosphere. This energy is in form of heat energy thus a transformation of chemical energy to heat energy is apparently evident in this process. Furthermore, there is the dissipation of energy in the mixing process whereby a lot of energy dissipates in the differential speed millers. This is because the process is exothermic thus; a lot of heat energy dissipates in the form of heat energy. This is also the case in the stainless steel kettle where there is the addition of the solvent to the mixture. This isquite evident due to the fact cooling of the kettle is necessary in the process in order to get rid of allthe excess heat energy dissipated in the process (Milady 742-747). The manufacturing requires a plenty of stable and continuous energy to produce large amounts of heat and mix raw materials, so most of the nail polish factories still use conventional energy such as coal-powered or fossil gas electricity (Williams and Schmitt 160-165).
After mixing and bottling these nail polishes, they will be boxed and distributed to retail stores or warehouses.
Distribution and Transportation
Upon completion of the manufacturing process and the necessary tests carried out, the nail polish is packaged and shipped for distribution to the consumers, and there are many different methods of transportation and distribution nail polish is mainly sold in retail stores. In generally, nail polishes are transports by the automatic vehicles. The buyers, located in different parts of the country or rather the world, need a means by which the product gets to them. In our case, the products would be distributed by the lorries, freight trains, or ships to buyers through highway, railway network, or international waterway. The fossil fuels will act as their main source of energy to drive the engines. Recently, it has become more and more popular that through the international express delivery to purchase the multinational cosmetics. In order to pursue a faster speed of delivery, express delivery companies even use the cargo aircraft to transport various commodities (Park, 321-334). The internal combustion engines of automatic vehicles ignite fossil fuels and converts its chemical energy into thermal energy. Then the thermal energy is converted to the kinetic energy. Modern transport ships often uses the turbine engine, and they used a series of fossil fuels, such as diesel oil, as an energy source. Most modern transport aircraft uses turbofans, which is a type of air-breathing jet engine, and its energy source is aviation kerosene (Parker). Modern trains generally use internal combustion diesel engine, and recently, there are more and more electric locomotives which are powered by electricity that is provided by external and internal current source such as overhead line or fuel cell (Hay).
Through the consumption of various sources of energy by different transportation methods, nail polish are distributed to consumers.
Use and Maintenance
When people start to use the nail polish, it seems that they does not take an obvious type of energy to use this product. The only energy change might be the water evaporation process of the nail polish after people paint them on their nails. The removal process of nail polish is also very simple. It could be removed with nail polish remover, which could be kind of organic solvent, such as acetone, oils, or even scents (Castello).
After the nail polish was expired or became the old-fashioned, the consumers would abandon them and let these nail polishes go into next stage of their lift circle.
The energy has also been used to recycle the waste associated with nail polish. According to the U.S. EPA, due to variety of toxic chemical ingredients, the nail polish belongs to the household hazardous waste. This means that discarding the nail polish bottle into the trash or recycling bin is not a smart option ("HOW TO"). Once the buyers are through with the use of the nail polish, they end up throwing away the small bottle that houses the nail polish as a waste. Depending on the consumer, will ether leave the small bottle and brush as a waste in the environment or recycle it back into the production process again. Energy in form of heat is required in this process for the melting of both the bottle and brushes. These are then remolded back into the small glass bottles and the brushes. One way in which the containers can be disposed of is by grinding the glass bottles into small pieces. Then using the thermal energy to melt the ground glass and mixing with other ingredients to produce new materials, such as concrete (Taha). The heat energy supplied is in the form of supper-heated steam, which at times is source of heat in the industries or super-hot ovens. In both scenarios, either electric energy from the power grid is used or even other chemical sources such as coal and timber (Huls).
The recycling process allows us to reduce the material waste. After gathering all the material which could be recycled, the rest of the things can only be wasted.
Due to the residues of nail polish contain large amounts of harmful substances and are difficult to decompose, it is difficult to find an environmentally friendly way to discard them ("HOW TO"). The traditional decomposition methods of nail polish residue and abandoned cosmetic are high temperature incineration or landfill. In the incineration process, the thermal energy from the combustion of fossil fuels transforms the environmentally unfriendly macro-molecules into inorganic small molecules (Adelusi). The existing waste disposal methods are very harmful to the environment. Just hope that with the development of biotechnology, the traditional methods could be gradually replaced by new degradation or decomposition technologies which usually use bio-energy to reduce the generation of hazardous substances and minimize waste of energy.
In conclusion, through this research, it shows that find out that the changes of energy appeared in the entire life cycle of nail polish. When understanding every stage of the energy usage, it will give people the holistic perspective and is easier to let them try some measures to reduce energy waste. This paper also displays that the largest environmental pollution caused by nail polish happens in the stage of waste management. It points out the direction for the environmental protection workers.
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Hazards of Nail Polish in Examining the Wastes and Emissions
Whether used for a special occasion or simply out of boredom, the use of nail polish is exclusively cosmetic. Marketed with this understanding and the expectation that it will be used in very close contact with the body, one would like to assume that it is formulated in the safest way possible, with few toxins or harmful chemicals. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The exact formula for any one nail polish is very difficult if not impossible to find. Every nail polish, however, is composed of the same basic ingredients: film former, resin, plasticizer, solvents, and colorants (Made How). As each of these components are formed and combined, there are toxic chemicals present that are potentially harmful. Through the life cycle of nail polish, from extraction of raw materials, manufacturing, and distribution, to use, recycling, and disposal, hazardous wastes and toxins exist, raising the question of whether or not a shiny coat of lacquer is worth it.
In the extraction process of the raw materials required to make each of the main components of nail polish, there are toxic chemicals that can be damaging to those working with them. Taking up approximately 15% of the solution, the film former is the defining ingredient of nail polish, transforming it from a colored liquid in a bottle to a hardened decorative coating. Composed of cellulose cotton and nitric acid, nitrocellulose is the main film former used in the industry because of its “toughness, durability, solubility, and solvent release” (Schlossman). In extracting the raw materials to make just this vital ingredient, there are significant harmful wastes. Cellulose extraction techniques “are time consuming, and usually require toxic chemicals such as toluene, chloroform, benzene, methanol, concentrated acids, etc.” (Skrzypek et. al). Each of these chemicals can negatively affect those extracting them. Toluene can affect the nervous system, both temporarily—with headaches, dizziness, or unconsciousness—and permanently with repeated exposure, causing incoordination, cognitive impairment, or vision and hearing loss (ASTDR, Toluene). Though many chemicals are suspected to be cancer causing, benzene is “one of the few substances that have been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a known human carcinogen” (Vermont Department of Health). Long-term exposure can cause neurological damage and harm the immune system. Exposure to both chloroform and methanol affects the nervous system and can bring on dizziness, headaches, nausea, and vomiting. Comparatively, the formation of nitric acid is much less harmful—though not harmless. Ammonia is “reacted with oxygen on platinum/rhodium alloy catalysts in the oxidation section of nitric acid plants” (EFMA). In this process, small amounts of ammonia are released into the air. The liquid wastes are much more harmful, contaminating the water from the purging and sampling of nitric acid solutions. Before even entering the manufacturing process, toxic waste is created in gathering materials for each basic component of nail polish.
In manufacturing, the basic components come together, each component an assemblage of different chemicals of varying toxicities. In the formation of the film forming agent, resin, plasticizer, solvent, and colorants, factory conditions range from extremely toxic to less toxic. In the processing of the main film forming agent, nitrocellulose, water is contaminated by the nitric and sulfuric acid treated cellulose and must be sent to a treatment facility (Chang et. al). The resin used most commonly is formaldehyde based (Schlossman). Urea-formaldehyde resins have good resistance to hydrolysis and cure quickly without smoking, making them ideal for different enamels and coatings. Unfortunately, they release formaldehyde into the environment while curing. Additionally, formaldehyde can be released from the cured resin when exposed to acidic environments and can cause illness in both humans and animals (Graves). Dibutyl phthalate is a common plasticizer in nail polish and is produced by a large number of companies in the U.S. Used in a variety of packaging, piping, varnishes, and pharmaceuticals, the number of workers exposed is over five hundred thousand per year, as of 1983 (Marsman). Though it is classified as a category 2 reproductive toxicant and has been shown to cause growth retardation, manufacturers do not have to state whether phthalates are present in their products (Koo). The solvents and colorants are fairly safe in contrast. Butyl acetate has a “pleasant fruity odor and is among the least toxic of industrial solvents” (Sanui). Colorants include organic pigments such as titanium dioxide and iron oxides, along with some artificial dyes (Schlossman). Though potentially wasteful or toxic in the extraction phase, these colorants do not pose a threat in the manufacturing phase. Though factories try to stay under toxic limits, working with and around toxic chemicals can be very uncomfortable, cutting down on working efficiency and output.
As the manufacturing process comes to a close and the polish moves into distribution, more wastes are accumulated. Different companies and manufacturers move the product all over the United States, some operating internationally as well. Proctor & Gamble is a U.S. based manufacturer responsible for a variety of personal care products, including nail polish (Our Products: Cover Girl). As one of the world’s largest consumer products companies, Proctor & Gamble strives for long-term sustainability. In the 2015 Sustainability Report, the company announces a goal to “reduce truck transportation kilometers by 20% per unit of production versus [the] 2010 baseline” by 2020 (Proctor & Gamble). Additionally the company hopes to convert up to 20% of truckloads to natural gas vehicles. Natural gas is “the cleanest of hydrocarbons, easy to control, and efficient in distribution and use,” making it a more sustainable option than petroleum fuels (International Gas Union). Though better for the environment in terms of emissions, natural gas cannot be thought of as completely sustainable, as it is not considered a renewable resource. Natural gas is found in underground reservoirs in quantities that could not keep up with the current demand for energy (U.S. Energy Information Administration). Proctor & Gamble’s goals are admirable, especially when compared to like companies with no statements about sustainability and the future, but even in providing information about where they’d like to move, they only provide percentages. The “2010 baseline” discussed is difficult if not impossible to find. There are still significant wastes accumulating during distribution that are not acknowledged by this company or any other nail polish manufacturer.
After the product is distributed, the use phase begins. During use, the same harmful chemicals present in the working environment of those manufacturing the nail polish are present. The chemicals of greatest concern are referred to as “The Toxic Trio” in the industry. These include formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate (Ford). While these chemicals are potentially harmful even in occasional use, consumers have less cause for concern. Research is a low priority because “both acute and chronic toxicity is low in humans and the outcome amounts to mild irritation” (Almendrada). Though this may be true, those who work in nail salons have daily exposure to even more chemicals, increasing the potential for harmful effects. Low to moderate daily exposure in the workplace can cause tiredness, confusion, weakness, memory loss, nausea, and loss of appetite (Ford). The Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers suggestions to minimize the harmful effects of the toxic trio, including: source reduction, improved ventilation, use of personal protective equipment, workplace practice controls, and other administrative controls (OSHA). Though the effects of the toxic trio on consumers have not been studied extensively, consumers should take the same precautions that nail care workers take when applying nail polish and should examine more carefully the toxicity of the products they select. Unfortunately, a study conducted by the Department of Toxic Substances Control reveals “that numerous nail care products sampled in the San Francisco Bay Area displayed toxic-free claims that weren’t supported by laboratory testing,” making this very difficult to do (DTSC).
When a bottle of nail polish is no longer quite the right color, unfortunately there are few recycling options. Chemwise is a chemical recycling and disposal organization that serves to dispose of chemicals and chemical supplies in an environmentally friendly way and happens to be one of the only companies that will process used nail polish. To use the services, the customer must purchase a recycling kit specifically designed for transporting nail polish safely (Chemwise). This kit costs $78.73—making it an unlikely option for the average environmentally conscious consumer. Because the options for recycling are so limited and the costs limit customers even further, Chemwise is predominantly used by nail salons and professionals. Fortunately, other options exist in terms of reuse of nail polish. Clear coat nail polish can be used to waterproof different things such as prescription bottle labels or addresses on envelopes. It can also be used to keep buttons from falling off shirts, keep fabric from fraying, or keep bugs from getting in the holes in window screens. Colored nail polish can be used as a way to label things or to hide minor chips in tiled walls or car paint and keep them from chipping more (Leigh). The sad reality is that nail polish is very rarely recycled, often ending up in the trash.
Disposal, unfortunately, does not end in the trashcan. Because of its toxic chemicals, nail polish is classified as household hazardous waste. As such it has fewer regulations in regards to safe disposal than regular hazardous waste, though it has the potential for just as much harm. Industrial wastes in the same category must go through very specific disposal processes, through hazardous waste facilities. Because household waste is more difficult to monitor, “wastes generated by normal household activities (e.g., routine house and yard maintenance) are exempt from the definition of hazardous waste” (EPA). Those unable to recycle old nail polish and unwilling to dispose of it properly potentially harm the environment. Improper disposal has been recognized by a number of researchers to contaminate groundwater by landfill leachates (Slack et. al). Additionally, the chemicals in household hazardous waste can poison wildlife, damage sewer systems, cause physical injury to sanitation workers, and present hazards to children and pets if left around the house (Bass et. al). While households do not have to separate household hazardous waste from trash under federal law, homeowners should be aware of the dangers present in their homes and should be responsible with household wastes.
In raw materials extraction and manufacturing, toxic chemicals are released into the working environment; In distribution, greenhouse gasses are emitted over miles of travel; In use, the same toxic chemicals are released, potentially harming nail salon workers and average consumers; In recycling and disposal, those toxins must be taken care of properly, which is costly and hazardous. Throughout the life cycle of nail polish hazardous wastes move through the system, contaminating the environments of both the consumers and the workers and generating both short term and long-term damages. Manicured nails are fun and girly, but such a small detail of cosmetic application. Most people will not notice the absence of nail polish and may not even notice the bright, colorful polish if it is there. That being said, the hazards of nail polish very strongly outweigh the power of nail polish as a cosmetic.
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