SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Today, the California Legislature passed a bill to ban intentionally added toxic “forever chemicals” known as PFAS from cosmetics sold in California.
Assembly Bill 2771 cleared the floor with a vote of 42 to 0. The measure will be sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is expected to sign it into law.
“Last year, we banned PFAS in juvenile products, with A.B. 652, and in paper-based food packaging, with A.B. 1200,” said Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), who authored the bill. “Now we’re going further by calling for the ban of these harmful chemicals in our cosmetics and personal care products, with A.B. 2771.”
“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,” she said.
A.B. 2771 is co-sponsored by the Environmental Working Group, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners and CALPIRG.
Two years ago, California led the nation when it banned 13 PFAS from use in personal care products.
“We applaud the legislature for approving this important bill to make sure what we put on our bodies is free from toxic chemicals, like PFAS,” said Susan Little, EWG’s senior advocate for California government affairs. “This is a huge deal. California has the largest statewide market for cosmetics and the sixth biggest economy in the world.”
PFAS are called “forever chemicals” because they do not break down in the environment and they build up in our blood and organs. They are among the most persistent toxic compounds in existence.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fluorinated chemicals contaminate the bodies of nearly all Americans, but cosmetics face little federal oversight. And the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a report recommending people with a history of elevated exposure to PFAS should be offered medical testing.
“Makeup, lotion and other personal care 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. “We applaud state lawmakers for passing the PFAS-Free Beauty Act and Assemblymember Laura Friedman for her dedication to making sure what we put on our bodies is toxic-free.”
Very low doses of PFAS in drinking water have been linked to an array of serious health harms. In June, the Environmental Protection Agency proposed new lifetime health advisories for four PFAS compounds in water. The guidelines serve as a stark reminder just how toxic to human health these forever chemicals are, even at infinitesimal levels.
Putting health at risk
Absorption of PFAS through skin is likely not a major route of exposure, but applying products containing these compounds around the eyes and lips can increase the absorption risk. Also, PFAS that washes off of our bodies enters wastewater and becomes a pollution challenge for sanitation agencies.
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, like breast cancer; and effects on metabolism, such as changes in cholesterol and weight gain.
“Consumers are increasingly demanding clean personal care and beauty products,” said Janet Nudelman, senior director of Program & Policy for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. “Breast cancer survivors and new parents work extra hard to avoid chemicals that could contribute to a re-occurrence of cancer or harm the development of their children.”
“This groundbreaking bill will help consumers avoid harmful chemicals in the products they put on their bodies and that go into our water systems. We look to Gov. Newsom to protect the health of all Californians by signing AB 2771,” said Nudelman.
Despite their well-documented risks, PFAS are added to many consumer products, including beauty and personal care products.
Regulation of forever chemicals
States like California are not waiting for Congress or the Food and Drug Administration to act.
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 on January 1, 2030, unless a company can prove they are essential.
In June 2022, Colorado enacted a law to ban “intentionally added” PFAS in a wide range of consumer products, including cosmetics. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2024.
Six other states have introduced bills to ban PFAS in personal care products.
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 EWG’s Skin Deep® database and Healthy Living app to find, and avoid, products that may contain PFAS.
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. https://www.ewg.org
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 www.bcpp.org
CALPIRG, the California Public Interest Research Group, is a statewide nonprofit organization that works to protect public health and consumers. Learn more at https://calpirg.org/