In 1938, the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act banned the sale of cosmetics that used “poisonous or deleterious substance[s],” calling such cosmetics “adulterated.” To date however, there is no state or federal law that requires cosmetic companies to test if the chemicals in their products are safe, and as a result only 11 of the 10,000+ chemicals used to make cosmetics have ever been regulated by the FDA.
It wasn’t until 2005 with the California Safe Cosmetics Act where the manufacturers of cosmetics were required to report any products that had known toxins to the California Department of Public Health. Since its installment in 2009, over 75,000 cosmetics sold in California have been reported to contain known carcinogens and reproductive toxins. However, these chemicals were never considered “poisonous or deleterious substances” under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.
What is CA Assembly Bill 2762?
Signed on September 30, California’s Toxic-Free Cosmetic Act was modeled after the European Union’s regulation of over 1400 chemicals used in cosmetics. It was the first legislation in the US to list 24 known toxins as such, thus banning their use in products sold on California shelves starting on January 1st, 2025.
What chemicals are banned?
In total 24 chemicals were banned from cosmetic sale in California. Note that these chemicals may go by different names on product labels.
|Dibutyl phthalate||Reproductive toxin. May cause liver and kidney damage.|
|Diethylhexyl phthalate||Reproductive toxin. May cause liver and kidney damage.|
|Formaldehyde||Carcinogen, mutagenic, skin sensitizer.|
|Paraformaldehyde||Skin and respiratory sensitizer.|
|Methylene glycol||Carcinogen, mutagenic, skin sensitizer.|
|m-Phenylenediamine and its salts||Carcinogen, damage DNA, irritate and sensitize the skin.|
|o-Phenylenediamine and its salts||Carcinogen, damage DNA, irritate and sensitize the skin.|
|Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS); heptadecafluorooctane-1-sulfonic acid||Reproductive toxin, carcinogen.|
|Potassium perfluorooctanesulfonate; potassium heptadecafluorooctane-1-sulfonate||Reproductive toxin, carcinogen.|
|Diethanolamine perfluorooctane sulfonate||Reproductive toxin, carcinogen.|
|Ammonium perfluorooctane sulfonate; ammonium heptadecafluorooctanesulfonate||Reproductive toxin, carcinogen.|
|Lithium perfluorooctane sulfonate; lithium heptadecafluorooctanesulfonate||Reproductive toxin, carcinogen.|
|Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)||Reproductive toxin, carcinogen.|
|Ammonium pentadecafluorooctanoate||Reproductive toxin, carcinogen.|
|Nonadecafluorodecanoic acid||Reproductive toxin, carcinogen.|
|Ammonium nonadecafluorodecanoate||Reproductive toxin, carcinogen.|
|Sodium nonadecafluorodecanoate||Reproductive toxin, carcinogen.|
|Perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA)||Reproductive toxin.|
|Sodium heptadecafluorononanoate||Reproductive toxin, carcinogen.|
|Ammonium perfluorononanoate||Reproductive toxin, carcinogen.|
Why ban these chemicals?
Many of the chemicals banned are carcinogens or reproductive toxins. Women, especially black women, and salon workers are disproportionately exposed to these chemicals through cosmetic products such as hair dye, spray and relaxers as well as certain moisturizers, cleaners and even nail polish. Some of the chemicals, such as mercury and nonadecafluorodecanoic acid are bioaccumulative, meaning even low doses can stay in one’s body for a long time, increasing their risk of health effects.
As a consumer, what can I do to stay safe?
As a consumer, it can be hard to know every ingredient in the products you buy and greenwashing doesn’t help the matter. Looking for trusted labels may help a bit, but unless you’re a chemist there is still a good chance that some of the names on a product label are hard to pronounce, let alone know what it is and how it affects our health. I personally have found apps like Think Dirty to analyze the ingredients in the products I buy. Overall, looking at product labels and understanding them may be the best thing consumers can do to protect themselves from unknown exposure to toxins.