Nail polish

This poisoning is from nail polish.

Poisonous Ingredient 

  • Toluene  
  • Butyl acetate  
  • Ethyl acetate  
  • Dibutyl phthalate

Where Found 

  • Various fingernail polishes

Note: This list may not be all inclusive.


  • Body as a whole       o Acting as if drunk       o Increased need to urinate  
  • Eyes, ears, nose, and throat       o Eye irritation and possible cornea damage  
  • Respiratory       o Difficulty breathing       o Slowed breathing rate       o Shortness of breath  
  • Gastrointestinal       o nausea and/or Vomiting       o Abdominal pain  
  • Nervous system       o Drowsiness       o Coma       o Stupor

Home Treatment 
Do not induce Vomiting. Seek emergency medical care immediately.

Before Calling Emergency 
Determine the following information:

  • The patient’s age, weight, and condition  
  • The name of the product (ingredients and strengths, if known)  
  • The time it was swallowed  
  • The amount swallowed

Poison Control, or a local emergency number 
See Poison Control centers for telephone numbers and addresses. Take the container with you to the emergency room.

What to expect at the emergency room 
Some, or all of the following procedures may be performed:

  • For swallowed poison       o Placement of a tube down the nose and into the stomach (a nasogastric tube, or an NG tube) to wash out the stomach (gastric lavage)       o Activated charcoal administration       o Endoscopy - the placement of a camera down the throat to see the extent of burns to the esophagus and the stomach       o Give IV fluids       o Admission to the hospital       o Give an antidote       o Treat the symptoms  
  • For skin exposure       o Irrigation (washing of the skin), perhaps every few hours for several days       o Skin debridement (surgical removal of burned skin)       o Admission or transfer to a hospital that specializes in burn care  
  • For allergic reactions       o Use of diphenhydramine       o Use of prednisone

Expectations (prognosis) 
With any toxic exposure, ingestion, or allergic reaction, recovery and prognosis depend on the amount of ingestion and the time to treatment. Nail polish tends to come in small bottles, so serious toxicity is unlikely from exposure to one bottle. However, for any ingestion or illness from exposure, seek emergency medical care immediately.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 3, 2012
by Martin A. Harms, M.D.

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All ArmMed Media material is provided for information only and is neither advice nor a substitute for proper medical care. Consult a qualified healthcare professional who understands your particular history for individual concerns.