CALPIRG Co-Sponsors Bill That Would Ban Many Dangerous Cosmetics

Media Contacts
Emily Rusch

Vice President and Senior Director of State Offices, The Public Interest Network

Emily Rusch

Vice President and Senior Director of State Offices, The Public Interest Network


 SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Landmark legislation introduced today would impose a statewide ban on cosmetics that include any of 20 highly toxic chemicals known to cause cancer, reproductive harm or hormone disruption.

Assembly Bill 495, authored by Assembly members Al Muratsuchi (Torrance) and Buffy Wicks (Oakland), halts the sale of cosmetics products containing toxic chemicals like mercury, lead, phthalates, formaldehyde, triclosan and the fluorinated compounds known as PFAS in California. The legislation is sponsored by CALPIRG and Environmental Working Group.

“No one would knowingly use face powder contaminated with asbestos, lipstick that contains lead, or baby shampoo spiked with formaldehyde,” said Emily Rusch, executive director of CALPIRG. “This bill gives Californians greater assurance that the products we use every day on our bodies are not causing more harm than good.”

Along with banning dangerous toxins in cosmetics, AB 495 would also expand the enforcement authority of the Department of Public Health’s California Safe Cosmetics Program by requiring that the program report cosmetics containing any of the listed chemicals to the state attorney general. The AG would then be required to investigate and potentially pursue financial and criminal penalties in court.

“Californians deserve to know whether the cosmetic products they purchase in the state are not harmful to their health,” said state lawmaker Muratsuchi. “While cosmetic products sold in the U.S. are largely unregulated, other nations — and even retailers — have proactively banned or restricted the use of hundreds or thousands of cosmetic ingredients. AB 495 will protect consumers by banning the sale in California of cosmetics containing known carcinogens, reproductive toxins, and endocrine disruptors that are harmful to human health.”

“Most of us, including me, use cosmetics on a daily basis,” said legislator Wicks. “Some still contain chemicals that are harmful to our bodies. AB 495 will protect consumers so that we can continue to use our favorite products without worrying about what’s in our mascara.”

The full list of the “Toxic Twenty” chemicals banned in the bill are: asbestos (a carcinogen), lead (a neurotoxin), diethylhexyl phthalate (a reproductive and developmental toxicant), formaldehyde (a carcinogen), formaldehyde releasers (seven carcinogenic chemicals), mercury and related compounds (neurotoxins), four parabens, toluene, triclosan, carbon black, and fluorinated PFAS chemicals.

“Many cosmetics companies are already reformulating their products to exclude these dangerous chemicals, but it’s important to establish a floor other companies can’t drop below,” said EWG President Ken Cook.

This bill would be an important protection for Californians, as the federal government currently exercises almost no oversight of cosmetics and personal care products, according to Rusch.

“Companies can use virtually any chemical ingredient in products without first having to prove it is safe for people to use,” she said. “This bill would be a signal to companies that they need to sell safe products to consumers.”