California bill would ban cosmetics with chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive harm

26 chemicals targeted for addition to the state’s landmark toxic-free cosmetics law

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Today California Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) introduced Assembly Bill 496 to ban the sale of cosmetic products that contain 26 toxic chemicals known to have an effect on human health. 

The chemicals include some borate compounds, lily aldehyde, cyclotetrasiloxane, trichloroacetic acid, styrene and certain colors.

“Personal care products and cosmetics should be non-toxic for everyone," said Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Burbank). "If you consider that the European Union prohibits over 1600 chemicals in such products, a ban in California on these noxious carcinogens and endocrine disrupters is long overdue. AB 496 continues our progress toward cleaner, healthier, and environmentally-safer products.”

The ingredients that A.B. 496 would ban are already prohibited from use in cosmetics and other personal care products sold in the European Union. But they are still allowed in personal care products on the market in the U.S.   

Many of the listed chemicals are linked to health problems, including a higher risk of cancer, genetic defects, harm to unborn children, impaired fertility, severe skin burns, and organ or eye damage, as well as high and long-lasting toxicity to aquatic life.

 A.B. 496 is sponsored by the Environmental Working Group.

In 2020 California led the nation when it banned 24 chemicals from use in personal care products with the landmark Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act. And last year, California prohibited the entire class of “forever chemicals” known as PFAS from being added to cosmetics. But many more problematic substances are still being used in personal care products. A.B. 496 would add the 26 targeted chemicals to the 2020 law.

The EU has banned or restricted chemicals that are not safe for use in cosmetics and other personal care products. By using Europe’s rigorous science to create its own standard for banning chemicals, California will help protect residents of the state.

“Californians should be able to trust the safety of products they apply to their hair and skin every day,” said Susan Little, EWG senior advocate for California government affairs.  

“A.B. 496 builds on the progress we have already made and bans more harmful chemicals from the products we use daily. Consumers are demanding safer products, and this bill will help protect people from further exposure to ingredients that could harm them,” Little said.

More than 80 nations protect their citizens from cosmetics products made with chemicals of concern. But the U.S. has not provided similar safeguards. 

California has long been considered a bellwether state, leading the way for the rest of the U.S. in many areas of health and safety. If a manufacturer is required to satisfy California standards, it will likely adhere to the same high standard with products it sends to the rest of the country.

“Toxic chemicals don’t belong in the products that we put on our bodies, and the U.S. has not done all it can to regulate cosmetics,” said Scott Faber, EWG senior vice president of government affairs. “This is why we are so thrilled Assemblymember Friedman has picked up the baton and introduced A.B. 496. In the absence of protective federal action, states must take charge and get toxic chemicals out of our everyday products.”


The Environmental Working Group (EWG) 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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