California Legislature sends bill to Gov. Newsom that would ban cosmetics with chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive harm

26 chemicals would be added to the state’s landmark toxic-free cosmetics law

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – On Wednesday, California’s legislature passed a bill banning the sale of cosmetic products that contain 26 toxic chemicals known to affect human health. The bill advances to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is expected to sign it into law.

Driven by the unwavering commitment of the legislation’s author, Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Burbank), Assembly Bill 496 would ban hazardous substances like some borate compounds, lily aldehyde, cyclotetrasiloxane, trichloroacetic acid, styrene and certain colors.

 The bill cleared the Assembly floor with a bipartisan vote. The Environmental Working Group is sponsoring the legislation.

“Personal care products and cosmetics should be non-toxic for everyone,” said Friedman. “If you consider that the European Union prohibits almost 2,500 chemicals  in such products, a ban in California on these noxious carcinogens and endocrine disruptors is long overdue.

“A.B. 496 continues our progress toward cleaner, healthier and environmentally safer products, marking a significant leap forward in consumer safety and well-being,” she said.

The bill aims to prohibit ingredients the EU already bans in cosmetics and personal care products because of their potential health risks. Leveraging the EU’s stringent scientific criteria for chemical regulation, the bill would prohibit these substances in cosmetics, ultimately safeguarding California residents.

Many of the 26 chemicals listed in the bill are linked to health problems, including a higher risk of cancer, genetic defects, harm to the developing fetus, impaired fertility, severe skin burns, and organ or eye damage, as well as high and long-lasting toxicity to aquatic life.

In 2020, California led the nation when it banned 24 chemicals from use in personal care products, with the landmark Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act. Last year, the state prohibited the entire class of “forever chemicals” known as PFAS from being added to cosmetics.

But many more problematic substances are still used in personal care products. A.B. 496 would add the 26 targeted chemicals to the 2020 law’s list of banned substances.

“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,” said Little. “Consumers are demanding safer products, and this bill will help protect people from further exposure to ingredients that could harm them.”

More than 80 nations shield their citizens from cosmetics 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.

“We must remove toxic chemicals from the products we apply to our bodies,” said Melanie Benesh, EWG vice president of government affairs. “In the absence of comprehensive federal protection, it falls on states to step up and ensure the removal of these harmful substances from our daily routines."


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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