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Is your nail polish to blame for those extra five pounds that snuck up on you this past summer? As outrageous as this sounds, a recent study conducted by Duke University and the Environmental Working Group suggests that there may be a link between a common nail polish ingredient and weight gain.

The culprit is Triphenyl phosphate or TPHP, and it’s typically used to make polishes more durable and flexible, according to Good Housekeeping. Separate studies are being conducted to confirm whether or not the ingredient, which was found in approximately 49% of the more than 3,000 nail polishes included in the survey, were linked to weight gain and obesity. Scientists suspect that TPHP interferes with a protein that plays a crucial role in “regulating the body’s metabolism and production of fat cells.”

The Journal explains:

Nail polish manufacturers may have turned to TPHP as a replacement plasticizer for dibutyl phthalate, or DBP, that was added to polish to improve flexibility. This chemical fell out of use in nail polish because highly publicized scientific studies showed that DBP and other phthalates are likely endocrine disruptors and toxic to the reproductive system.

Urine tests have found that Americans are extensively exposed to TPHP, probably because it is a common plasticizer and fire retardant often applied to foam cushioning in furniture. A recent biomonitoring study by Duke scientists who investigated TPHP exposure in adults found significantly higher levels of DPHP in women than in men who were tested in a separate study. These findings suggest that women may absorb more TPHP through personal care products, such as nail polish, that are marketed specifically to women.

The Environmental Working Group has since launched a petition urging nail polish manufacturers to remove TPHP from their products. There is also a database that lists cosmetic products with TPHP as an active ingredient.

The beauty industry in Africa is not regulated nor are any safety tests done on such products before they are shipped into African countries. This means that African women are also at risk of endocrine disruptors and this could potentially be toxic to their reproductive system.

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