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Int J Toxicol. 2005;24 Suppl 5:53-100.

Final report of the safety assessment of methacrylate ester monomers used in nail enhancement products.


Methacrylate ester monomers are used in as artificial nail builders in nail enhancement products. They undergo rapid polymerization to form a hard material on the nail that is then shaped. While Ethyl Methacrylate is the primary monomer used in nail enhancement products, other methacrylate esters are also used. This safety assessment addresses 22 other methacrylate esters reported by industry to be present in small percentages as artificial nail builders in cosmetic products. They function to speed up polymerization and/or form cross-links. Only Tetrahydrofurfuryl Methacrylate was reported to the FDA to be in current use. The polymerization rates of these methacrylate esters are within the same range as Ethyl Methacrylate. While data are not available on all of these methacrylate esters, the available data demonstrated little acute oral, dermal, or i.p. toxicity. In a 28-day inhalation study on rats, Butyl Methacrylate caused upper airway irritation; the NOAEL was 1801 mg/m3. In a 28-day oral toxicity study on rats, t-Butyl Methacrylate had a NOAEL of 20 mg/kg/day. Beagle dogs dosed with 0.2 to 2.0 g/kg/day of C12 to C18 methacrylate monomers for 13 weeks exhibited effects only in the highest dose group: weight loss, emesis, diarrhea, mucoid feces, or salivation were observed. Butyl Methacrylate (0.1 M) and Isobutyl Methacrylate (0.1 M) are mildly irritating to the rabbit eye. HEMA is corrosive when instilled in the rabbit eye, while PEG-4 Dimethacrylate and Trimethylolpropane Trimethacrylate are minimally irritating to the eye. Dermal irritation caused by methacrylates is documented in guinea pigs and rabbits. In guinea pigs, HEMA, Isopropylidenediphenyl Bisglycidyl Methacrylate, Lauryl Methacrylate, and Trimethylolpropane Trimethacrylate are strong sensitizers; Butyl Methacrylate, Cyclohexyl Methacrylate, Hexyl Methacrylate, and Urethane Methacrylate are moderate sensitizers; Hydroxypropyl Methacrylate is a weak sensitizer; and PEG-4 Dimethacrylate and Triethylene Glycol Dimethacrylate are not sensitizers. Ethylene Glycol Dimethacrylate was not a sensitizer in one guinea pig study, but was a strong sensitizer in another. There is cross-reactivity between various methacrylate esters in some sensitization tests. Inhaled Butyl Methacrylate, HEMA, Hydroxypropyl Methacrylate, and Trimethylolpropane Trimethacrylate can be developmental toxicants at high exposure levels (1000 mg/kg/day). None of the methacrylate ester monomers that were tested were shown to have any endocrine disrupting activity. These methacrylate esters are mostly non-mutagenic in bacterial test systems, but weak mutagenic responses were seen in mammalian cell test systems. Chronic dermal exposure of mice to PEG-4 Dimethacrylate (25 mg, 2 x weekly for 80 weeks) or Trimethylolpropane Trimethacrylate (25 mg, 2 x weekly for 80 weeks) did not result in increased incidence of skin or visceral tumors. The carcinogenicity of Triethylene Glycol Dimethacrylate (5, 25, or 50%) was assessed in a mouse skin painting study (50 microl for 5 days/week for 78 weeks), but was not carcinogenic at any dose level tested. The Expert Panel was concerned about the strong sensitization and crossor co-reactivity potential of the methacrylate esters reviewed in this report. However, data demonstrated the rates of polymerization of these Methacrylates were similar to that of Ethyl Methacrylate and there would be little monomer available exposure to the skin. In consideration of the animal toxicity data, the CIR Expert Panel decided that these methacrylate esters should be restricted to the nail and must not be in contact with the skin. Accordingly, these methacrylate esters are safe as used in nail enhancement products when skin contact is avoided.

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