Formaldehyde is used in nail polish as a hardener. Exposure to formaldehyde fumes can irritate the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. There is an increased cancer risk if you are exposed to high levels of formaldehyde over long periods of time, such as through a work environment. Formaldehyde is rapidly broken down by the body. Although exposure to formaldehyde may not be good for you, the foetus is not likely to be affected.
Nail polish glides on more smoothly due to the addition of toluene, and much like formaldehyde, exposure to toluene fumes can irritate your eyes, throat and lungs. There is an added risk that exposure to toluene in high concentrations can cause damage to the nervous system and cause birth defects in the foetus. But you would need to be directly inhaling toluene fumes regularly for this to be a risk. If you paint your nails regularly, or work as a nail technician, there may be a small risk to you, but not the baby.
Reduce your exposure to formaldehyde and toluene by:
• Using a toluene and formaldehyde free nail polish, and use it once a week at most
• Try to have a colleague do the painting when you can, if you work as a nail technician.
• Before putting on nail polish, open the doors and windows for maximum ventilation.
• Let your fingernails dry away from your body, don't blow on it. You are more likely to breathe in the fumes by blowing.
Nail polish removers should be safe for you to use while you're pregnant. Removers often contain acetone, which naturally occurs in our bodies and in the environment, as well as being commercially manufactured. There’s a small possibility that exposure to large quantities of acetone over extended periods of time, could lead to developmental problems and birth defects. Even if you used nail polish remover every day, it wouldn't expose you to enough fumes to harm you or your baby. Acetone-free nail polish removers are available and have the added advantage of being less drying and gentler to your nails. Remember to wash your hands with soap and water after removing nail polish to remove any chemical residues.