States Seek Crackdown on Toxic Ingredients in Cosmetics to Close Gaps in Federal Oversight

by | Feb 23, 2023 | Health

Washington has joined more than a dozen other states in seeking to crack down on toxic substances in cosmetics after a state-funded study there found lead, arsenic, and formaldehyde in makeup, lotion, and hair-straightening products made by CoverGirl and other brands.

The U.S. stalled out on chemical regulations after the 1970s, according to Bhavna Shamasunder, an urban and environmental policy associate professor at Occidental College. And that has left a regulatory void, as lax federal oversight allows potentially toxic products that would be banned in Europe to be sold in American stores.

“Lots of products on the market aren’t safe,” Shamasunder said. “That’s why states are helping create a solution — it’s a patchwork approach.”

The potential exposure to toxicants in cosmetics is especially worrisome for women of color, because studies show that Black women use more hair products than women of other racial groups and that Hispanic and Asian women have reported using more cosmetics in general than non-Hispanic Black and white women.

The Washington state legislation is a second attempt at passing the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act, after legislators approved a bill in 2022 that was stripped of the ban on toxic ingredients in cosmetics. This year, lawmakers have additional context after a report commissioned by the legislature and published by the state Department of Ecology in January found multiple products with concerning levels of hazardous chemicals, including lead and arsenic in dark-tint CoverGirl Clean Fresh Pressed Powder foundation. CoverGirl Continuous Color Lipstick and Markwins Beauty Brands’ Black Radiance Pressed Powder foundation were among other products from various brands c …

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