Toxic-Free Cosmetics Please

With salons closed in recent months as part of sheltering-in-place efforts, I’ve found myself doing more self-care at home -- from pedicures to Zoom make-overs with friends. Digging through my bathroom cabinet to find supplies, an important question dawned on me: Can I be sure the makeover products are safe?

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Laura Deehan
Public Health Advocate

Author: Laura Deehan

Public Health Advocate

415-420-4710

Started on staff: 2002
University of California at Davis

Laura works to protect public health by advocating for laws that reduce exposure to toxicants, especially lead in children and stopping the overuse of antibiotics. Prior to her current role, Laura has trained dozens of organizers and thousands of students to be effective leaders in social change movements, led voter registration drives to help register more than 100,000 young people to vote, helped pass a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags in California, and worked on dozens of successful clean energy and clean car campaigns. Laura lives in Oakland with her family where she enjoys biking, cooking and exploring California’s outdoors.

With salons closed in recent months as part of sheltering-in-place efforts, I’ve found myself doing more self-care at home -- from pedicures to Zoom make-overs with friends. Digging through my bathroom cabinet to find supplies, an important question dawned on me: Can I be sure the makeover products are safe? 

Unfortunately, not so much. According to the Los Angeles Times editorial from earlier this year, “current law does not give regulators the authority to pull personal care and cosmetic products from the market, even when they’re tainted with hazardous chemicals.” 

Last year, a woman in Sacramento suffered from mercury poisoning and fell into a coma after using skin-lightening creams containing dangerous levels of methyl-mercury. Tragically, this isn’t a one-off case. In fact, the California Department of Public Health has identified dozens of instances when these types of creams have been sold in online marketplaces, such as on Amazon.com or at flea markets. 

That’s one reason why CALPIRG along with the Environmental Working Group, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners and Black Women for Wellness are co-sponsoring a bill in the state legislature to address this pressing problem (AB 2762). The re-introduced toxic-free cosmetics act would protect consumers from toxic ingredients in personal care products.

Authored by California Assembly members Al Muratsuchi, Buffy Wicks and Bill Quirk, the bill mirrors some important consumer protections enjoyed by citizens in the European Union and many other places around the world. It would ban a dozen of the most toxic ingredients from being used in personal care products sold in the state of California, including mercury, formaldehyde and phthalates, which have been linked to cancer, infertility and compromised immune systems. It would also give the state attorney general clear authority to take legal action against violators of the law. The idea that the cream you rub into your skin could affect your immune response to diseases like COVID-19 is especially concerning right now.  

Today the bill faces a key vote in the California Assembly’s committee on the Environment, Safety and Toxic Materials. We urge the committee members to vote yes, and protect consumers in our state from exposure to toxics whenever we use body care products. 

Laura Deehan
Public Health Advocate

Author: Laura Deehan

Public Health Advocate

415-420-4710

Started on staff: 2002
University of California at Davis

Laura works to protect public health by advocating for laws that reduce exposure to toxicants, especially lead in children and stopping the overuse of antibiotics. Prior to her current role, Laura has trained dozens of organizers and thousands of students to be effective leaders in social change movements, led voter registration drives to help register more than 100,000 young people to vote, helped pass a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags in California, and worked on dozens of successful clean energy and clean car campaigns. Laura lives in Oakland with her family where she enjoys biking, cooking and exploring California’s outdoors.