If signed, first-ever bill will be the strongest state law in the country regulating toxic chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products
UPDATE: On April 14, 2023, the House of Representatives concurred Washington’s Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act (HB 1047) in Senate amendments. It now moves to the Governor’s desk for signature.
OLYMPIA, WA—Today, the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act (HB 1047)—sponsored by Washington State Representative Sharlett Mena (29th Legislative District)— passed in the Washington State Senate with a vote of 28-20-1. The legislation bans PFAS, lead, phthalates, formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers, and other harmful chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products. The bill passed in the Washington State House of Representatives on March 1, 2023 with a vote of 55-41. It now heads back to the House of Representatives for a concurrence vote before moving to the Governor’s desk. If signed, this law will become the strongest in the country regulating toxic chemicals in beauty and personal care products and establishing incentives for safer products.
“You shouldn’t have to be a toxicologist to shop for your cosmetics. When we go to the store, we assume that a product on the shelf is safe, but that isn’t always the truth. When we find these toxics in certain cosmetics, it doesn’t mean that everybody is getting just a little bit of exposure. A lot of us go back to the same products and the same brands, so functionally, some of us are getting more exposure than others,” said Rep. Sharlett Mena (D-Tacoma). “What the Washington Department of Ecology found is that many of the products that contain the most harmful toxic chemicals are the ones that are targeted towards women of color. I am proud that Washington is taking a stand and leading the nation by banning these harmful products. This bill will ensure that the products that we use over and over again are not harming us or the environment.”
“We are thrilled that the Senate passed this bill, which brings us another step closer towards safer cosmetics and personal care products for Washington state and beyond,” said Laurie Valeriano, executive director, Toxic-Free Future. “It is outrageous that we have to worry about PFAS and other hazardous chemicals in products we apply to our bodies that are then washed down the drain and wind up in our waterways. This bill will set a national precedent in protecting us from unnecessary exposures to dangerous chemicals like PFAS, lead, and formaldehyde, and will increase the availability of safer products. We are grateful for the leadership of Reps. Mena, Doglio, and Fitzgibbon, and Senators Nguyen, Trudeau, Rolfes and Saldaña to get this important bill passed. We urge the House of Representatives to concur and send this important public health measure to Governor Inslee for his signature.”
BACKGROUND ON WASHINGTON’S TOXIC-FREE COSMETICS ACT
Earlier this year, the Washington State Department of Ecology tested 50 products marketed to or used by people of color and found high levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, in certain hair products, creams, and lotions. The Department of Ecology’s tests also found lead at concentrations greater than 1 ppm in two dark-tint powder foundations and one lipstick, despite there being no safe amount of lead according to both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO). The report also describes the use of chemicals that are largely unregulated in skin lotions, hair conditioning treatments and styling gels, lip and eye makeup, and deodorant, including some linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and developmental and reproductive harm.
Studies have shown that women of color are disproportionately exposed to harmful chemicals in cosmetics. A recent study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology discusses the environmental justice impacts of beauty and states that people of color use more beauty products and are disproportionately exposed to toxic chemicals as compared to white consumers, with Black consumers purchasing nine times more ethnic hair and beauty products than other groups.
The legislation comes at a time when retailers are increasingly adopting policies to phase out and ban toxic chemicals in beauty and personal care products, according to the Retailer Report Card. Retailers including Credo Beauty, CVS Health, Rite Aid, Sephora, Target, Ulta Beauty, Walgreens, Walmart, and Whole Foods Market have been working to reduce and eliminate harmful chemicals such as phthalates, parabens, PFAS, and/or formaldehyde releasers in beauty and personal care products. More recently, some major retailers have reported substantive progress in addressing harmful chemicals in beauty products. Sephora recently reported it has achieved a 39.5% reduction in brand-name beauty products with one or more toxic chemicals. Walmart has reduced priority chemicals by 37 million pounds in key product categories such as cosmetics, personal care, household cleaners, and formulated baby care products.
For more information on Washington State’s Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act, visit: https://toxicfreefuture.org/2023-washington-state-cosmetics-bill/
Toxic-Free Future (TFF) is a national leader in environmental health research and advocacy. Through the power of science, education, and activism, Toxic-Free Future drives strong laws and corporate responsibility that protects the health of all people and the planet.