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Toluene also is known as “toluol” that refers to tolu balsam, an aromatic extract from the tropical American tree called Myroxylon balsamum. It is an aromatic hydrocarbon solvent and it is produced during the process of making gasoline and other fuels from crude oil, in making coke from coal, and as a by-product in the manufacture of styrene. You may see it on labels listed as benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, and methylbenzene. Toluene used for manufacturing of paints, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and rubber, and unfortunately your nail polish, nail treatments, and hair dyes/bleaching products! For example, nail products containing toluene are applied to the hard, largely impenetrable surface of the nail where a smooth and glossy film is quickly formed upon evaporation of the solvents.
Toluene is poisonous to the nervous system and breathing it can cause headaches. It may cause irritation of the eyes, respiratory tract, and skin. Repeated or prolonged contact with the liquid may cause the removal of natural lipids from the skin resulting in dry, fissured dermatitis. Low-level chronic exposure may result in depression and decreased memory. Other symptoms include headache, dizziness, fatigue, muscular weakness, and drowsiness. There is also a major concern of toluene because of its links to birth defects and miscarriage so mothers should avoid exposure to toluene vapours as it may cause developmental damage in the foetus. Not only that, occupational exposure to benzene is linked to leukaemia! This is why toluene is banned by the EU and Canada due to its toxic ratings which is the maximum rating.
So, look out for the labels such as benzene, toluol, phenylmethane, and methylbenzene in the ingredients list. Make some time to learn and read about chemicals that are used and try to go as simple and chemical free as you can. Just remember, beauty should be measured by what’s inside, not what we see on the outside!