Chemicals in cosmetics targeted in new law

By Azeb Tuji

WNPA News Service

For a large portion of Washingtonians, the use of cosmetic products is a part of their everyday routine, but some of those same household products often contain harmful chemicals that cause a variety of health risks.

A bill now making its way through the Legislature will require manufacturers to adhere to more transparent label requirements. Similar bills that monitor and prevent the distribution of cosmetic products have already passed in California and Maryland.

“It’s a simple bill that will have a huge impact on the health and well being of many of our community members,” Sen. Mona Das, D-Kent., said.

Dr. Ami Zota, professor of Environmental Occupational Health at the Milken Institute School of Public Health, said that although anyone can be exposed, women of childbearing age and those from under-represented groups are most vulnerable and disproportionately impacted.

“Compared to white women, women of color have higher levels of beauty product related environmental chemicals in their bodies and these differences are not explained by the differences in income.”

According to Zota, Black women spent upwards of $5 million on beauty product services in 2014. Her research shows Black women not only use more types of personal care products but the products marketed towards them contain more toxic chemicals.

A growing scientific consensus of the health impacts of long-term involuntary exposure to chemicals such as phthalates and parabens, commonly found in beauty products is forming.

These chemicals enter the body through the skin, hair, and through the air from dust.

During the Senate Environment, Energy & Technology Committee meeting Jan. 12, a proposal regulating the manufacturing, selling, and distribution of any cosmetic product that contains toxic chemicals, such as per- and polyfluorinated substances, was introduced.

“This act is to protect our communities from the extremely harmful toxic product,” Das said.

Since certain chemicals used in products are linked to harmful impacts on health such as cancer, birth defects, damages to reproductive systems, organ system toxicity and endocrine disruption — many of which have already been identified by the state as high-priority chemicals.

Lindsay Dahl from Beautycounter, a cosmetic company whose focus is selling safer skincare, claimed the beauty industry is severely under-regulated and that banning these chemicals doesn’t hinder the industry’s ability to deliver on consumer expectations. “This work is hard but it’s the right thing to do,” Dahl said.

Nora Burnes, of the Personal Care Products Council, said she hopes some amendments to the bill can be made.

“We need to avoid inadvertently setting up a nationwide patchwork that isolates our consumers and retailers,” she said.

Barnes said she hopes to continue discussion on amending the bill to align state law with the European Union’s list of prohibited cosmetic ingredients and believes global alignments would benefit manufacturers and provide good protection for consumers.