Calif. Bill Would Ban Cosmetics With Chemicals Linked to Cancer or Reproductive Harm

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Landmark legislation introduced today would ban the use in cosmetics sold in California of 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 like 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 Environmental Working Group and 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.

If AB 495 becomes law in California, Cook said, 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 Assemblymember 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 Assemblymember 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 full list of the “Toxic Twenty” chemicals that would be banned from use under the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act, include:

  • Asbestos (a carcinogen).
  • Lead (a neurotoxin).
  • Diethylhexyl phthalate (a reproductive and developmental toxicant).
  • Formaldehyde (a 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 (a reproductive and developmental toxicant).
  • Triclosan (a hormone disruptor).
  • Carbon black (a carcinogen).
  • Fluorinated PFAS compounds (carcinogens and developmental toxicants).

AB 495 would also expand the enforcement authority of the Department of Public Health’s California Safe Cosmetics Program by requiring that the program 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 was established in 2006. It requires major cosmetics manufacturers to provide notification whenever the company sells a cosmetics product that contains a reproductive toxicant or a carcinogen. The program has identified at least 88 different carcinogens and reproductive toxicants intentionally added to cosmetics sold in California.

The federal government currently exercises almost no oversight of cosmetics and personal care products. Companies can use virtually any chemical ingredient in products without first having to prove it is safe for people to use.

By contrast, more than 40 other nations have prohibited or restricted the use of thousands of chemicals in cosmetics. Even major retailers have created lists of chemicals that may not be used in their own cosmetics brands. 


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.

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