Legislature considers proposals to ban toxic ‘chemicals forever’ from cosmetics and firefighting gear

Washington has led the country in phasing out dangerous toxic chemicals found in products, from food wraps to fire-fighting foam to automobile brake pads. Now advocates are pushing for legislation to stop the worst toxic chemicals from entering cosmetics.

The proposed legislation would address nine types of toxic chemicals found in beauty products. They include the class of toxic substances known as PFAS, which are sometimes referred to as “eternal chemicals” because they do not break down, but rather flow through watersheds and accumulate in sediments. PFAS can harm health with everything from immune suppression to cancer.

The bill also targets formaldehyde, another carcinogen, and phthalates, which can disrupt hormones.

“So there’s only a range of effects, and those are really unnecessary exposures,” says Laurie Valeriano, executive director of the Washington-based nonprofit Toxic-Free Future.

She says these cosmetics are useless because alternative products exist; a whole industry of clean beauty products has emerged. And, in fact, other governments such as the European Commission have banned these toxic substances and more.

His organization partnered with the University of Washington and Indiana University in a recent peer-reviewed study of PFAS in breast milk. They took samples from 50 mothers and found PFAS in each of them. The study also found that overall AFP detections doubled every four years. Valeriano says that should impress on lawmakers that now is the time to act.

“We need to identify these products – like cosmetics, clothing and other products that we come into contact with – and drastically reduce them so that we can reverse this worrying trend of PFASs in our bodies and being passed on to our children,” says Valeriano.

“The state really needs to step in and tackle these chemicals as a first step to cleaning up beauty products.”

She says eight other states are currently considering similar legislation, which could ultimately guide federal policy.

A second bill before the Legislative Assembly would amend a law passed in 2019 to accelerate the removal of high-priority toxic chemicals, including PFAS, from certain consumer products, such as firefighter uniforms.

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