Nail polish as a source of exposure to triphenyl phosphate

Environ Int. 2016 Jan;86:45-51. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2015.10.005. Epub 2015 Oct 18.


Triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) is primarily used as either a flame retardant or plasticizer, and is listed as an ingredient in nail polishes. However, the concentration of TPHP in nail polish and the extent of human exposure following applications have not been previously studied. We measured TPHP in ten different nail polish samples purchased from department stores and pharmacies in 2013-2014. Concentrations up to 1.68% TPHP by weight were detected in eight samples, including two that did not list TPHP as an ingredient. Two cohorts (n=26 participants) were recruited to assess fingernail painting as a pathway of TPHP exposure. Participants provided urine samples before and after applying one brand of polish containing 0.97% TPHP by weight. Diphenyl phosphate (DPHP), a TPHP metabolite, was then measured in urine samples (n=411) and found to increase nearly seven-fold 10-14h after fingernail painting (p<0.001). To determine relative contributions of inhalation and dermal exposure, ten participants also painted their nails and painted synthetic nails adhered to gloves on two separate occasions, and collected urine for 24h following applications. Urinary DPHP was significantly diminished when wearing gloves, suggesting that the primary exposure route is dermal. Our results indicate that nail polish may be a significant source of short-term TPHP exposure and a source of chronic exposure for frequent users or those occupationally exposed.

Keywords: Diphenyl phosphate; Exposure; Nail polish; Plasticizer; Triphenyl phosphate; Urine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cosmetics / chemistry*
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / analysis
  • Nails / metabolism*
  • Occupational Exposure / analysis
  • Organophosphates / analysis*
  • Organophosphates / urine


  • Cosmetics
  • Organophosphates
  • triphenyl phosphate