This week, California legislators introduced a bill that would ban cosmetics containing chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive harm. More specifically, it would ban the use of cosmetics sold in California containing 20 highly toxic chemicals known to cause cancer, reproductive harm or hormone disruption.
Assembly Bill 495, authored by Assemblymembers Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) and Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland), states that cosmetics products containing toxic chemicals such as mercury, lead, phthalates, formaldehyde, triclosan and the fluorinated compounds known as PFAS are “adulterated cosmetics” that may not be sold in California. The legislation is sponsored by two consumer advocacy groups: Environmental Working Group (EWG) and California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG).
“Toxic chemicals that cause cancer or reproductive harm have no place in any consumer products, especially those that adults and children alike apply to their bodies every day,” said Susan Little, EWG’s senior California advocate for government affairs. “This common-sense proposal is exactly what is needed to clean up the cosmetics aisle so that Californians can be assured their makeup, soap and shampoos don’t include harmful chemicals.”
“Many cosmetics companies are already reformulating their products to exclude these dangerous chemicals, but it’s important to establish a floor other companies can’t drop below,” said EWG President Ken Cook.
Of course, California is highly influential having a robust economy. In fact, if AB 495 were to become law, Cook believes it could mean safer cosmetics choices throughout the nation. “No cosmetics CEO would make a product with a cancer-causing chemical ingredient that could not be sold in California, the fifth-largest economy in the world,” he said.
“Californians deserve to know whether the cosmetic products they purchase in the state are not harmful to their health,” said Assemblyman Muratsuchi. “While cosmetic products sold in the U.S. are largely unregulated, other nations—and even retailers—have proactively banned or restricted the use of hundreds or thousands of cosmetic ingredients. AB 495 will protect consumers by banning the sale in California of cosmetics containing known carcinogens, reproductive toxins and endocrine disruptors that are harmful to human health.”
“Most of us, including me, use cosmetics on a daily basis,” said Assemblywoman Wicks. “Some still contain chemicals that are harmful to our bodies. AB 495 will protect consumers so that we can continue to use our favorite products without worrying about what’s in our mascara.”
“No one knowingly wants to use face powder contaminated with asbestos, lipstick that contains lead or baby shampoo spiked with formaldehyde,” said Emily Rusch, executive director of CALPIRG. “This bill would give Californians greater assurance that the products we use every day on our bodies are not causing more harm than good.”
The 20 chemicals that would be banned from use under the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act include the following:
· Asbestos (carcinogen)
· Lead (neurotoxin)
· Diethylhexyl phthalate (eproductive and developmental toxicant)
· Formaldehyde (carcinogen)
· Formaldehyde releasers (seven carcinogenic chemicals)
· Mercury and related compounds (neurotoxins)
· Four parabens – isobutylparaben, isopropylparaben, butylparaben and propylparaben (reproductive and developmental toxicants and hormone disruptors)
· Toluene (reproductive and developmental toxicant)
· Triclosan (hormone disruptor)
· Carbon black (carcinogen)
· Fluorinated PFAS compounds (carcinogens and developmental toxicants)
Additionally, AB 495 would expand the enforcement power of the Department of Public Health’s California Safe Cosmetics Program. The program would be required to report cosmetics containing any of the listed chemicals to the state attorney general. The AG would then be required to investigate and potentially pursue financial and criminal penalties in court.
The California Safe Cosmetics Program, established in 2006, currently requires major cosmetics manufacturers to provide notification whenever the company sells a cosmetics product that contains a reproductive toxicant or a carcinogen.
Although two bills were introduced in Congress—the Personal Care Products Safety Act and the Modernization of Cosmetics Regulation Act—in the past two years to update the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938, no legislation has been passed. The federal government exercises almost no oversight of cosmetics and personal care products.