SEATTLE — The Washington state Department of Ecology found high levels of toxic chemicals in some common beauty products as part of a study published this month.
It came as state lawmakers are considering a new bill that would ban cancer-causing chemicals in those products sold in Washington. House Bill 1047 would restrict the manufacture, sale and distribution of cosmetic products that contain nine chemicals, including formaldehyde, mercury and PFAS substances.
The bill failed in the legislature last year. If Washington were to pass the bill, it would become the first state in the country to ban chemicals in these products.
As part of research for the bill, the legislature directed Ecology to test a variety of cosmetic products marketed to people of color.
The state purchased 50 products from Walmart, Target, Fred Meyer and Dollar Tree in the Puget Sound area, including foundation, lipstick, lotion, leave-in conditioner and hair gel. Ecology sent them to a lab for testing, which found heavy metals in some powder foundations and lipstick.
For example, lead and arsenic were discovered in a dark-tint COVERGIRL clean fresh pressed powder foundation. They also found lead in a Black radiance pressed powder foundation and a COVERGIRL continuous color lipstick.
The lab found formaldehyde in all 10 hair gels, including Old Spice putty with beeswax, and nine out of 10 leave-in conditioners.
Erika Schreder, science director of the nonprofit Toxic-Free Future, said she discovered that the styling gel with the highest amount of formaldehyde was just used on her teenage daughter's braids at the salon.
“It's so frustrating even as an expert in toxics that my own child had a product on her hair that contained formaldehyde,” Schreder said. “We really need the state to step in and ensure that these toxic chemicals are taken out of these products and replaced with safer alternatives.”
The second phase of the study tested for chemicals in nail polishes, hair spray, blush and eye shadow. Those results are expected in June.
HB 1047 had a committee hearing Jan. 9, and the House Committee on Environment and Energy took executive action on the bill Thursday.