California first state to ban toxic chemicals in personal care products, cosmetics

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Claudia Deeg


SACRAMENTO, Calif. – In a major victory for the movement for safer cosmetics, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act, Assembly Bill 2762, into law on Wednesday. This is the nation’s first state-level ban of 24 toxic ingredients, including mercury and formaldehyde, from the beauty and personal care products Californians use every day.

These ingredients are already prohibited from cosmetics and other personal care products sold in the European Union and some other countries, but are still used in personal care products sold throughout the United States. The banned chemicals are linked to harmful impacts on health, such as cancer, birth defects, damage to the reproductive system, organ system toxicity and endocrine disruption.

The Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act was introduced by Assemblymembers Al Muratsuchi (Torrance), Bill Quirk (Hayward) and Buffy Wicks (Oakland).

“Nothing we put on our bodies every day should be able to harm us for the rest of our lives,” said Emily Rusch, CALPIRG executive director. “The Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act will protect Californians by banning some of the most toxic ingredients found in personal care products. We are grateful to Assemblymembers Muratsuchi, Wicks and Quirk for their dedication to protect public health.”

A Groundbreaking Bill

California consumers will join those of 40 other nations who are protected from harmful cosmetics.

“California is the first in the nation to ban 24 ingredients from the personal care products people use every day,” said Susan Little, EWG’s senior advocate for California government affairs. “The Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act gives consumers the healthier products they are demanding and deserve.”

The U.S. cosmetics industry is notoriously underregulated. For more than 80 years, Congress has neglected to increase the scope of the Food and Drug Administration’s authority over cosmetics, limiting the agency’s ability to ensure the safety of cosmetic products. Ingredients that research has shown to be unsafe are legally permitted in the cosmetics sold to consumers in the U.S.

“Formaldehyde in bubble bath?” said Janet Nudelman, director of program and policy at Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, one of the bill sponsors. “Mercury in skin lightening creams? Congress has been asleep at the wheel for 82 years when it comes to cosmetic safety, which is why we so appreciate the important leadership Gov. Newsom took today when he signed the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act into law.”

“Given that the majority of the chemicals banned by the bill are linked to breast cancer, this historic bill also takes us one step closer to preventing this devastating disease by removing a major source of women’s ongoing exposure to some of the most toxic substances on the planet,” added Nudelman.

The list of banned chemicals includes the toxic fluorinated chemicals known as PFAS, mercury and formaldehyde, as well as endocrine-disrupting phthalates and long-chain parabens, preservatives used in skincare products.

“Some of the most toxic ingredients are being aggressively marketed to Black women,” said Nourbese Flint, policy director for the Los Angeles-based Black Women for Wellness. “Levels of formaldehyde that could be used to embalm a body are being used in hair straighteners, and Black women who dye their hair are 60 percent more likely to develop breast cancer. That’s why we demand safe cosmetics now. This law means we can finally protect women from the toxic exposures they currently face on every trip to the salon.”

By contrast, the EU has performed rigorous research to identify the chemicals that are not safe for use in cosmetics and other personal care products. By following Europe’s science on chemical bans, Californians will be safer while also creating a more global standard for cosmetic safety.

“This marks a momentous milestone in the history of cosmetics regulation,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “California is the first state to ban ingredients from personal care products. And for the first time, groups like EWG and the industry’s trade association, the Personal Care Products Council, came together to pass legislation to modernize the rules governing these everyday products. Thank you, Gov. Newsom, for signing this absolutely necessary legislation into law, and thank you, Assemblymembers Muratsuchi, Quirk and Wicks, for authoring it.”

California has long been considered a bellwether state, leading the way for the rest of the country 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 the products it sends to the rest of the country.

The Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act was cosponsored by CALPIRG, Black Women for Wellness, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners and EWG.

The governor also signed the Cosmetic Fragrance and Flavor Ingredient Right to Know Act of 2020, Senate Bill 312, into law. The act will require companies to disclose the presence of any fragrance or flavor ingredients that are listed on one or more of 27 hazard lists.

“Californians have a right to know what ingredients are in the products we’re using every day,” said Rusch. “Thanks to this act, the terms ‘fragrance’ and ‘flavor’ will no longer be used to hide known toxic ingredients in cosmetics and other personal care products.”


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

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

CALPIRG, the California Public Interest Research Group, is a statewide nonprofit organization that works to protect public health and consumers. Learn more at

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.

staff | TPIN

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