On Friday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law that bans intentionally added toxic PFAS chemicals (known as “forever chemicals”) from cosmetics sold in California.
“Toxic PFAS have no place in our consumer products,” says Assemblymember Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), who authored the new law, the PFAS-Free Beauty Act. “California will now ban these harmful chemicals from our cosmetics and personal care products. I’m proud that our state has already banned PFAS in juvenile products and in paper-based food packaging.”
“Soon, Californians won’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 says.
This law is one of the latest of the state’s hard-hitting steps to tackle PFAS. Governor Newsom also signed the California Safer Clothes and Textiles Act (AB 1817), authored by Assemblymember Ting, which bans the sale of clothes, outdoor gear, and other textiles containing toxic PFAS ‘forever’ chemicals in CA.
Two years ago, California was the first to ban 13 PFAS from personal care products, and the state also banned the use of PFAS in firefighting foam. Last year, Newsom signed into law the two bills banning the use of PFAS in juvenile products and in food packaging.
“Consumers are increasingly demanding safe personal care and beauty products,” says Janet Nudelman, Senior Director of Program and Policy for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, and Director of BCPP’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “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.”
“We thank Gov. Newsom for protecting the health of all Californians by signing this groundbreaking law. Consumers will soon be able to avoid these harmful chemicals in the products they slather on their bodies and their babies and that wash down the drain and further contaminate our water systems,” Nudelman says .
Honeywell has tried to impede California’s leadership on the issue and aggressively lobbied the governor to veto the cosmetic safety bill. A PFAS ban in personal care products is bad for the company’s bottom line as it attempts to introduce PFAS-replacement chemicals known as hydrofluoroolefins as new propellants in aerosolized cosmetic products, including hair spray and dry shampoo.
“We applaud Gov. Newsom for signing this important bill into law despite industry pressure and ensuring that what we put on our bodies is free from toxic PFAS,” says Susan Little, Environmental Working Group’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. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in a report recommends 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,” says Jenn Engstrom, state director of CALPIRG. “We applaud Gov. Newsom for signing the PFAS-Free Beauty Act into law.”
“We also thank Assemblymember Laura Friedman for her dedication to ensuring what Californians put on our bodies is toxic-free,” Engstrom says.
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 of just how toxic to human health these chemicals are, even at infinitesimal levels.
PFAS that wash off our bodies enter wastewater and become a pollution challenge for sanitation agencies that contributes to the drinking water contamination already facing 16 million Californians.
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.