The dangers of molds in nail polish

More than a year has passed since it came to light that the FDA was investigating an outbreak of Salmonella in over 230,000 jars of a supplement called Maestro. In addition to the bacteria,…

The dangers of molds in nail polish

More than a year has passed since it came to light that the FDA was investigating an outbreak of Salmonella in over 230,000 jars of a supplement called Maestro. In addition to the bacteria, which can be deadly in infants and people with weakened immune systems, the tainted molds led to the deaths of two elderly people and sickened 33 others in four states.

Between August 2015 and March 2017, four anti-aging claims products were recalled due to mold contamination. Just in the last year, four other firms — including Vie, World Clean, Qiongee and Trader Joe’s — voluntarily recalled product over mold concerns.

Over the course of an 18-month span, eight salmonella outbreaks attributed to molds have been documented in molds found in various retailers’ products. Of these molds, Microcystis is most commonly implicated.

These types of health issues lead to liabilities for manufacturers and retailers alike. In August, the FDA subpoenaed the New York headquarters of Marketing Genetics, manufacturer of both Maestro and Qiongee masks; e. coli, monocytogenes and E. coli O157 were found in Qiongee masks manufactured prior to the FDA’s announcement. The molds that created these problems included Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, E. coli O157:H7 and Listeria monocytogenes. In October, Vintage Europe, the manufacturer of World Clean masks that were recalled due to molds, filed a claim against Marketing Genetics. In December, Vintage sold World Clean to Twisteneye.

FDA inspectors say that while cases of mold are rare, their presence in products can carry some serious health consequences. Arsenic, for example, can cause elevated blood pressure and organ damage, while E. coli can cause severe illnesses like severe diarrheal disease and meningitis.

While molds are commonly responsible for food-borne diseases, molds aren’t responsible for most foodborne illnesses. The FDA says that mold is most likely to be a problem in “foreign bodies” in processed food products. But that doesn’t mean that molds aren’t coming from all areas of our lives.

“There are so many moldy things I find in products,” says Amelia Reiss, medical director at Newark, New Jersey-based Aura Cosmetic & Laser Institute. While her patients occasionally report finding mold, most cases aren’t necessarily due to tainted products. “The whole world’s got mold in it.”

Admittedly, not all mold-covered items have to be reported to the FDA. According to Mapping Nail Mold in the Natural Beauty Industry data collected by the CDC, out of the 12.5 million samples of nail fungus submitted by the public, only 1,631 were labeled as mold problems.

That’s not to say there’s not mold in most products. Historically, manufacturers have used texturing agents such as aspen oil or silica sand that cause the design of a product to warp, mold spores can get into the silicone blend and makeup lines, while mold inhibitors can be added to shoe soles to prevent mold growth.

Reiss says she checks the label of nail polish products that are marketed to her clients to make sure they are not coated with a coating that is even more susceptible to mold growth. But even without this observation, a mess of problems can result when molds break out.

“Ribbons, lettering, decals, even a couple of dripping bottles can throw off [the mold],” says Reiss. Her clients are instructed to rub off the affected area before using nail polish. Reiss says she also uses a dry, clean nail polish remover to remove the molds. For customers who don’t use spray remover or want to use a spot remover, she uses a damp cotton ball or dry power brush and applies the base coat to the affected area.

Reiss notes that if she has a positive diagnosis on a nail of any kind, she uses “topicals” from her own “home lab” — a variety of extractions, aloe vera, and retinol combined with gamma secretase. While these additional products can have harmful effects of their own, they work better as a supplement to something specifically used to treat a specific mold.

If Reiss cannot nail down what is causing a moldy nail, she will visit the local dermatologist for a diagnosis, then prescribe something more specific.

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