Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act Would Ban Cosmetics With Chemicals Linked to Cancer or Reproductive Harm

Bill Would Ban 12 Highly Toxic Chemicals
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For Immediate Release: 
Friday, February 21, 2020

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – On Thursday the California Assembly reintroduced the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act, A.B. 2762. If passed, the law would ban 12 toxic ingredients, such as mercury and formaldehyde, from the beauty and personal care products Californians use every day.

“More than 40 other nations protect their citizens from harmful cosmetics,” said Susan Little, EWG’s senior advocate for California Government Affairs. “But the U.S. has done little to ensure consumers are not exposed to unsafe ingredients in personal care products. A.B. 2762 would prevent cosmetics manufacturers from adding some of the most toxic chemicals to cosmetics sold in California.”

Assembly Members Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance), Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) and Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) are joint authors of the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act and were key supporters of an earlier iteration of the bill that, despite urgent requests by breast cancer survivors, researchers and public health advocates, died in the Assembly Health Committee in January. And in April 2019, a similar bill stalled in its first policy committee because industry opposition helped to block a vote.

“I want my daughter growing up in a state where I don’t have to be an expert toxicologist to know the soaps, face creams and toothpastes that are safe for her to use,” said Assembly Member Muratsuchi. “That is why I introduced A.B. 2762 – to get the most toxic chemicals out of the products we use on a daily basis.”

California has seen many examples of the impact of toxic ingredients in beauty care products.

“A woman recently went into a coma a few miles from here because she used face cream contaminated with mercury,” said Assembly Member Wicks. “And right now there is nothing stopping that from happening again and again. I call on my colleagues to make sure we don’t wait any longer to address this critical issue.”

"Even as a nuclear scientist, I cannot discern what various cosmetic products contain and how they will affect me and my family; my wife has severe allergies to many hygiene products, and as a result, does not use cosmetics or scented products," said Assembly Member Quirk. "The European Union has done the rigorous science to identify ingredients that are not safe for use in cosmetics. By following their science on chemical bans, we can ensure products sold in California are safe while also creating a more global standard for cosmetic safety." 

In December 2019, a study by the National Institutes for Health found a correlation between women who use permanent hair dye and chemical straighteners, and a higher risk of developing breast cancer. The researchers concluded that Black women were most adversely affected. 

"Harmful chemicals such as mercury and formaldehyde have no place in our beauty products – period,” said Nourbese Flint, executive director of Black Women for Wellness Action Project. “We know these chemicals are dangerous, and that they have a cumulative effect that disproportionately impacts communities of color, women and low-income working families. A.B. 2762 is an important step toward addressing health inequities linked to chemical exposures and we applaud the state legislature for reintroducing this important piece of legislation.”

“The stakes couldn’t be higher, especially for the one in eight women who will experience breast cancer in her lifetime,” said Janet Nudelman, director of the Breast Cancer Prevention Partner’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “A.B. 2762 is a commonsense bill that would ban 12 of the most toxic chemicals from beauty products sold in California, nine of which are directly linked to breast cancer. This important bill takes us one step closer to preventing breast cancer before it starts by removing a major source of women’s ongoing exposure to some of the most toxic substances on the planet.”

Congressional action is required to increase the scope of the FDA's authority on cosmetics. But for more than 80 years, this has not occurred.

“Right now, each time we take a shower, put on makeup or go to the salon, we increase our risk of infertility and cancer. That is unacceptable. Now is the time for California to step up to get toxics out of our personal care products,” said Laura Deehan, public health advocate for the California Public Interest Research Group.

A.B. 2762 is co-sponsored by EWG, Black Women for Wellness, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners and CalPIRG.

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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/safercosmetics/

Black Women for Wellness is committed to the health and well-being of Black women and girls through health education, empowerment and advocacy. Learn more at www.bwwla.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 non-profit organization that works to protect public health and consumers. Learn more at https://calpirg.org/