State Director, Environment California
State Director, Environment California
Sacramento – Supporters gathered at the State Capitol today to urge the California Assembly to pass the Toxic Free Cosmetics Act (AB 495). If passed, the law, which will face its first key vote tomorrow, would ban such toxic ingredients as lead, mercury and formaldehyde from the beauty and bodycare products Californians use every day.
“I want my daughter growing up in a state where I don’t have to examine the label, and be an expert toxicologist, to know the soaps, face creams and toothpastes that are safe for her to use,” said Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi, author of the legislation. “That’s why I introduced AB 495 to get the most toxic chemicals out of the products we use on a daily basis.”
Last spring, the bill stalled in its first policy committee because industry opposition helped to block a vote from taking place. Since then, California has seen more 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 joint co-author Assemblymember Buffy 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.”
Although the Federal Drug Administration is meant to protect consumers from these threats, when it comes to cosmetics, the federal regulatory body lacks any of the same authority it has with food or drugs. The consumer group CALPIRG released a report in 2018 where it found tens of thousands of asbestos fibers per gram of some eye shadow and face powder products being sold at Claire’s stores.
“Asbestos is highly toxic and doesn’t belong in kids makeup, but because of the FDA’s limited legal authority, all they could do is ask Claire’s to voluntarily remove their products from the shelf,” said Laura Deehan, CALPIRG public health advocate. “When Claire’s refused, the FDA had no ability to issue fines or mandate a recall.”
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.
“More than 40 other nations protect their citizens from harmful cosmetics,” noted Susan Little, senior advocate from Environmental Working Group. “Californians should be protected from unsafe products too. A law passed in 1996 to do that was never implemented. AB 495 would update this law to make sure that cosmetics manufacturers stop adding some of the most toxic chemicals to personal care products sold in California.”
The stakes couldn’t be higher, especially for women today, according to supporters of the bill. “Ten out of the 13 chemicals addressed by AB495 are linked to breast cancer,” said Janet Nudelman, Director of BCPP’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “One in eight women will develop breast cancer, which is a 40 percent increase since the 1970s. 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.”
An NIH study released last month found a direct correlation between women dying their hair or using hair straightener, and their risk of developing cancer. The report concluded that black women are affected most adversely.
“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 straightener and black women who dye their hair are 60 percent more likely to develop cancer. That’s why we demand safe cosmetics now. The legislature should pass AB495 so that we can finally protect women from the toxic exposure they currently face on every trip to the salon.”