Legislators took another step toward controlling the intentional use of the toxic chemical PFAS in cosmetics sold in California recently when the Assembly passed cosmetics safety legislation, Assembly Bill 2771.
PFAS are commonly identified as toxic “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment and build up in the blood and organs.
“Exposure to PFAS compounds, even in very low doses, has been linked to serious health problems,” said Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), who introduced Assembly Bill 2771. “I’ve authored this bill because Californians shouldn’t have to worry that they’re putting their health, or the health of their loved ones, at risk by doing something as routine as applying lotion or wearing makeup.”
In 2018, EWG scientists scoured the Skin Deep® database, which provides ingredient lists and safety ratings for more than 85,000 cosmetics and personal care products, to see which contained PFAS. The report revealed the researchers identified 13 types of PFAS in more than 300 products. The products were found among more than 50 brands.
“Prohibiting the sale of personal care products that contain these forever chemicals is a critical step toward reducing unnecessary exposure,” Friedman added. Forever chemicals are used in products like dental floss, lotions, cleansers, shaving cream, lipstick, eyeliner and mascara to purportedly improve durability, texture, condition or smooth skin, or make it appear shiny. Experts report cosmetics with the highest levels of PFAS are often marketed as “waterproof, wear-resistant or long-lasting”.
“Concerns are mounting throughout the world about the toxicity and environmental persistence of PFAS chemicals. To tackle PFAS pollution of our bodies and the environment, all nonessential uses of PFAS must be restricted immediately,” said Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Susan Little, senior advocate for California government affairs.
Little made these comments last October when Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation restricting PFAS use in food packaging and paper straws beginning January 1, 2023.
When Newsom signed the legislation last year it came more than a decade after experts warned of the health concerns posed by perfluorinated chemicals (PFAS) known to cause cancer and other harmful effects.
However, despite the warnings, a report published by EWG in 2017 revealed fast food companies were continuing to use products including wrappers, bags, boxes, etc. coated with PFAS. Four years later, in 2021 California passed legislation to protect its residents.
Also on January 1, 2023, manufacturers will be required to list–on their publicly available websites–any chemicals present in their pots, pans and other cookware and will be prohibited from making false marketing claims that lead customers to believe their products are PFAS free.
As a result of the same initiative, beginning January 1, 2024 manufacturers must begin labeling cookware that contains toxic chemicals on product handles or in coatings.
“For the first time, cookware manufacturers must disclose on labels the chemicals present in the surface coatings of their products,” said Little.
Very low doses of PFAS in drinking water have been linked to increased risk of cancer, reproductive and immune system harm and liver and thyroid disease. PFAS exposure is also linked to interference with vaccines and is associated with an elevated risk of breast cancer, increased cholesterol and other serious health concerns, explained EWG in a recent statement to the press.
According to the nonprofit Safer Chemicals, at least 14 fast-food and casual restaurant chains with more than 123,534 stores and over $203.2 billion in annual sales collectively, have committed to eliminate PFAS in food packaging. Those making the commitment include Burger King, McDonalds, Chick-fil-A, Chipotle, among others.
Only time will tell whether make-up and other industries that stand to be impacted by the potential passage of AB 2771 by the CA Senate and potential signing into law by the governor will be as socially responsive.
The Environmental Working Group is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization that empowers people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. Through research, advocacy and unique education tools, EWG drives consumer choice and civic action.