California bill would ban toxic ‘forever chemicals’ from cosmetics

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Today California Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) introduced Assembly Bill 2771 to ban the sale in California of cosmetics and other personal care products containing the toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS.

“Exposure to PFAS compounds, even in very low doses, has been linked to serious health problems,” said Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale). “I’m authoring 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. Prohibiting the sale of personal care products that contain these forever chemicals is a critical step to reduce unnecessary exposure.”  

Assembly Bill 2771 defines PFAS as “a class of fluorinated organic chemicals containing at least one fully fluorinated carbon atom.” If enacted, it would be the first-ever total state ban on that class in the beauty and personal care products Californians use every day.

“Californians should be able to trust that the products they apply to their hair or skin every day are safe,” said Susan Little, senior advocate for California government affairs at the Environmental Working Group.

“Two years ago, California led the nation when it banned 13 PFAS from use in personal care products. It’s time to prohibit all these toxic compounds from the products we use daily. Consumers are demanding safer products, and this bill will help protect people from further exposure to toxic PFAS,” Little said.

A.B. 2771 is co-sponsored by EWG, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners and CALPIRG.

Why are PFAS in cosmetics?

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. Researchers identified 13 types of PFAS in more than 300 products among more than 50 brands. PTFE – a PFAS chemical better known as Teflon – was the most commonly found ingredient, used in more than 200 different products.

“Products we use on our bodies every day shouldn’t contain toxic ingredients that put our health at risk,” said Jenn Engstrom, state director of CALPIRG. “Yet every morning, many Californians are covering our bodies with toxic PFAS chemicals currently permitted in cosmetics and personal care products. We applaud Assemblymember Friedman for working to make sure what we put on our bodies is toxic-free.”

Forever chemicals are used in products like dental floss, lotions, cleansers, shaving cream, lipstick, eyeliner and mascara to improve durability and texture, and to condition or smooth skin, or make it appear shiny. Cosmetics with the highest levels of PFAS are often marketed as waterproof, wear-resistant or long-lasting.

Last year, University of Notre Dame researchers tested 231 cosmetics for PFAS. More than half the products tested contained PFAS, and most did not list any on their ingredient labels. The study found more than three-quarters of waterproof mascara, nearly two-thirds of foundations and liquid lipsticks, and more than half of eye and lip products had high fluorine concentrations, indicating the likely presence of PFAS.

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Health risks

Absorption of PFAS through skin is likely not a major route of exposure, but application of products containing these compounds around the eyes and lips can increase the absorption risk.

Some PFAS have been linked to a higher risk of harm to the immune system, such as reduced vaccine efficacy; harm to development and the reproductive system, such as reduced birth weight and impacts on fertility; increased risk of certain cancers; and effects on metabolism, such as changes in cholesterol and weight gain.

“PFAS chemicals that are linked to breast cancer, pollute our drinking water and persist in the environment forever are too big a price to pay for beauty,” said Janet Nudelman, director of Breast Cancer Prevention Partner’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Women living with breast cancer shouldn’t have to wonder or worry if their daily use of a favorite lipstick or lotion is increasing their risk of a recurrence of this devastating disease.”

PFAS are called “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment and they build up in our blood and organs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fluorinated chemicals contaminate the bodies of nearly all Americans, but cosmetics face little federal oversight.

Regulation of forever chemicals

The U.S. cosmetics industry is notoriously underregulated. For more than 80 years, Congress has neglected to increase the Food and Drug Administration’s authority over cosmetics, limiting the agency’s ability to ensure the safety of personal care products.

But some federal lawmakers are hoping to spur FDA action. In 2021, Rep. Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced the House and Senate versions of the No PFAS in Cosmetics Act. It would require the FDA to issue a proposed rule within 270 days of enactment to ban the intentional use of PFAS as an ingredient in cosmetics, with a final rule due 90 days later.

Federal legislation was also introduced in October by Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Lizzie Fletcher (D-Texas) to ban the entire class of PFAS chemicals from cosmetics, as well as the same 11 chemicals banned by the California Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act.

But some states are not waiting for Congress or the FDA to act.

In September 2020, California enacted a landmark law banning 24 of the most harmful chemicals in personal care products, including 13 PFAS compounds. In June 2021, Maryland enacted a similar law.

In July 2021, Maine also adopted a law that will ban the unnecessary use of PFAS in all products, including cosmetics. Although the law takes a phased approach over the next few years, it will ban the sale of new products that contain intentionally added PFAS, starting January 1, 2030, unless a company can prove they are essential,  

Six other states have introduced bills to ban PFAS in personal care products, and Friedman's bill would apply this prohibition in California, which is the largest cosmetics statewide market and the sixth biggest economy in the world.

“PFAS contamination is a public health crisis, and it is long past time we phased out all nonessential uses of these chemicals,” said Little. "Any use of these chemicals is concerning, and consumers should reduce exposure as much as possible, because of potential health harms. Lawmakers should make it a priority to quickly phase out all unnecessary uses of PFAS."

In the meantime, consumers who want to limit their PFAS exposure should avoid most products marketed as waterproof, grease-resistant or long-lasting. They also should look for a “PFAS free” label on products. People also can use the Skin Deep database and EWG’s Healthy Living app to find products that may contain PFAS, and choose options that don’t include forever chemicals as an ingredient.


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.

Breast Cancer Prevention Partners is the leading national science-based, policy and advocacy organization focused on preventing breast cancer by eliminating our exposure to toxic chemicals and radiation. Learn more at

CALPIRG, the California Public Interest Research Group, is a statewide nonprofit organization that works to protect public health and consumers. Learn more at


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