Bill in legislature would ban toxins commonly found in cosmetics

Jan 12, 2023, 8:55 PM | Updated: Jan 13, 2023, 9:07 am
(Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for IMG)
(Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for IMG)

Did you know that your deodorant, nighttime face cream, mascara, and other cosmetics in your bathroom drawer may all contain chemicals linked to cancer?

We may prefer to ignore it, but many of the makeup, skin care, and personal hygiene products we use on a daily basis have potentially toxic ingredients.

In a new report from the Washington State Department of Ecology and Washington State Department of Health, researchers tested 50 common cosmetic products found at drugstores. Nearly half of the products tested contained enough formaldehyde “to cause allergic reactions” in some people, including all of the hair gels and creams that were tested. Other products contained lead; the report notes that the the CDC and WHO say that lead is not safe in any amount. Some of these products are marketed at children, such as hair de-tanglers.

A local biochemist says your cosmetics are toxic

A bill in the Washington State Legislature this session seeks to do something about that. House Bill 1047 would ban the sale, manufacture, and distribution of cosmetic products with certain toxic chemicals in Washington, beginning in 2025. So far, the bill has had one hearing in the House Committee on Environment and Energy.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Sharlett Mena (D-Tacoma), said dangerous chemicals are commonly found in the beauty and skincare products we use on a regular basis.

“You shouldn’t have to be a toxicologist to shop for your cosmetics, and I think a lot of us go to the grocery store or to the makeup store or wherever we get our things, and assume that they’re safe to use because they’re on the shelf,” she said.

These toxic chemicals are linked to cancer, birth defects and reproductive problems, respiratory issues, and other serious health complications.

“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,” Mena said. “And we’re using them over and over again.”

Toxins are especially found in certain products marketed at women of color, such as hair relaxers and darker-tinted foundation.

Mena said that so far, she has gotten widespread support for the bill, including cautious support from some members of the business community.

While this would involve banning products that are still allowed to be sold in other states, at chain stores that have locations in Washington around the country, Mena is not worried about how the logistics of regulating those products just in our state would work.

“We already regulate lead in children’s products, for example. We already have a regulation around PFAS [per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances] in packaging and in firefighting foam,” Mena said. “So we’ve done this in the state of Washington.”

A similar bill was introduced last year in both chambers of the Legislature, but failed to pass. However, Mena is determined to keep pushing for a ban on toxic cosmetics.

“It’s important to me that we continue to fight for this, it’s important to me that we have products on the shelf that are safe to use … This is a bill that is really important to making sure that we’re not putting toxins on our face, that we’re not consuming products that are not good for us, and I think everyone has a stake in that,” Mena said.

To look up the toxicity of your own favorite beauty, skin care, and hygiene products, visit the Deep Skin Database.

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Bill in legislature would ban toxins commonly found in cosmetics