A measure advanced in the Washington legislature would ban the use of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in cosmetics. These chemicals are often used to make beauty products, such as mascara, foundation, and lipstick, water-resistant and longer-lasting.
In high quantities, chemicals can also raise cholesterol levels, hinder immune responses, cause complications during pregnancy, and increase the risk of certain cancers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Senate Bill 5703 would ban the sale and distribution of cosmetics with the addition of PFAS in Washington state starting January 1, 2025. The measure would also prohibit the addition of other chemicals, including formaldehyde and mercury. to cosmetics, by setting limits on the amount of lead that can be present in beauty products.
The proposal comes four years after state lawmakers voted to stop the sale and distribution of fire fighting foam that includes PFAS and also voted to limit the use of PFAS in food packaging.
Although these bans are gradually being introduced and have some exemptions, state Senator Mona Das, D-Kent, said there is no reason why the same chemicals should be added to cosmetics.
“We’ve already banned it in our state for firefighters. Why don’t we ban it for 50% of our population? ”Said Das, the first sponsor of SB 5703.
“This is a banned chemical, it’s a known carcinogen – and we’re putting it on women’s faces here,” she said.
The bill passed in the state Senate in a 26-21 vote on February 14. It is now under consideration by the State Chamber.
Das’s proposal is similar to a California-approved measure that will ban several chemicals from cosmetics starting in 2025, including 13 specific types of PFAS.
The Washington measure, however, would go further, banning the entire class of PFAS additives, as opposed to some only.
The Washington state proposal would also ban a whole group of chemicals known as phthalates, which are known to disrupt the endocrine system and are associated with pregnancy complications.
Part of the concern about PFAS and other chemicals in cosmetics is about compounds entering water systems and accumulating in the soil, said Heather Trim, executive director of Zero Waste Washington.
These chemicals “are forever – they don’t break down,” Trim testified during a Jan.12 public hearing before the Senate Committee on Environment, Energy and Technology.
“When people bathe, shower, wash their hands, these chemicals are all washed out,” Trim said. Even after passing through wastewater treatment plants, PFAS can flow directly into water bodies, as well as turn into compost, Trim said.
According to the state Department of Ecology, PFAS have been detected in underground water supplies in Washington, as well as osprey eggs and fish.
“Any toxic or dangerous effects of these chemicals will be with us for many decades,” Ecology officials wrote in a report last year.
A recent peer-reviewed study that looked at the breast milk of 50 Seattle area women also found traces of PFAS in all 50 breast milk samples.
“It’s so concerning that we have these kinds of chemicals that we’re passing on to our vulnerable children,” said Laurie Valeriano, executive director of Seattle’s nonprofit Toxic-Free Future, whose scientists worked on that study with the researchers. of the University of Washington.
But companies that make shampoos, makeup and other cosmetic products have expressed concern that Washington state may adopt regulations that are not in line with those of other states and countries.
The European Union has already taken several steps to regulate PFAS in cosmetics, as well as in other products. Maryland lawmakers last year enacted a ban on chemicals in cosmetics designed to align with European, as well as California, rules.
Nora Palattao Burnes, a lobbyist for the Personal Care Products Council, told lawmakers at the January 12 hearing that the organization wants to avoid creating a patchwork of different regulations. The council represents more than 600 companies that manufacture cosmetics and products such as lotions, shampoos and perfumes.
“Global regulatory alignment is good news for consumers, who shouldn’t worry about the presence of these ingredients, and good news for manufacturers who will benefit from cohesion,” Burnes said at the hearing.
SB 5703 was subsequently amended to remove some chemicals from the proposed ban list.
Although the Personal Care Products Council declined to comment on the changes to the bill, the amendments addressed some concerns raised early on by the Association of Washington Business. The business lobby group is neutral on the proposal, which means it is no longer actively opposing it, but it is also not urging lawmakers to approve it.
State Senator Shelly Short, the Republican leader of the Senate, said she wished there had been a longer discussion about which chemicals would be banned and how prevalent they are in cosmetics. Republicans, who are in the minority in both houses of the legislature, opposed the measure when it was voted in the Senate.
“We don’t yet know the universe of where these products are and how many are out there, and I think a necessary step would have been to know before we adjusted it,” said Short, R-Addy, during his February 2017 speech. on the 14th floor.
A peer-reviewed study published last year in the journal Environmental Science & Technology analyzed 231 cosmetic products and found evidence of PFAS in 63% of foundations, 55% of lip products and 47% of mascaras. However, few of these products were labeled as containing PFAS.
A significant portion of SB 5703 would focus on the disproportionate impact that chemical additives in cosmetics have for women of color. Recent Nielsen reports have found that black women spend far more money than their white counterparts on beauty products and personal care products.
Ami Zota, an associate professor in George Washington University’s department of environmental and occupational health, said women of color not only use more types of personal care products, but “the products marketed for them contain more toxic chemicals.”
“Compared to white women, women of color have higher levels of environmental chemicals related to beauty products in their body and these differences are not explained by income differences,” Zota said at the January 12 public hearing on SB. 5703.
SB 5703 would require the state Department of Ecology to test cosmetic products marketed for women of color to identify any harmful chemicals contained in those products. The department would therefore need to create an awareness and education program to help alert women to the presence of such chemicals, with a focus on culturally appropriate education and raising awareness of members of racial minority groups.
This work, in addition to identifying new types of chemicals that need regulation, is expected to cost anywhere from $ 600,000 to $ 700,000 annually.
Das’s proposal is scheduled for a public hearing on February 22 in the Chamber’s Energy and Environment Commission. Commission chair Joe Fitzgibbon, D-West Seattle, said he hopes to get the bill out of commission before the key legislative deadline of February 24.
The entire House of Representatives would then have to pass the measure before it can go to Governor Jay Inslee’s desk and become law.
Lawmakers are expected to end the 2022 session on March 10.