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Washington bans 9 toxic chemicals in makeup

The Washington state Department of Ecology found high levels of toxic chemicals in some common beauty products as part of a study published in January.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill Monday that will ban nine toxic chemicals found in some common beauty products.

House Bill 1047 also directs the Department of Ecology to perform a hazard assessment for chemicals that could replace the ones in cosmetic products that now will be banned in the state.

These eight chemicals and/or chemical classes will be banned on Jan. 1, 2025 when intentionally added to the product.

  • ortho-phthalates
  • perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances
  • formaldehyde and chemicals determined by Ecology to release formaldehyde 
  • methylene glycol
  • mercury and mercury compounds
  • triclosan
  • m-phenylenediamine and its salts
  • o-phenylenediamine and its salts

Lead and lead compounds are also restricted when intentionally added or meet a certain threshold. 

Ecology must identify an initial set of up to 10 formaldehyde-releasing chemicals to be restricted by Jan. 1, 2026. Other chemicals could be identified and banned no earlier than Jan. 1, 2027.

Retailers must exhaust their existing supply of the banned chemicals before Jan. 1, 2026.

Manufacturers in violation of the new law will be subject to a $5,000 violation for a first offense and $10,000 for each repeat offense. These fines would be deposited in the Model Toxics Control Operating Account.

In January, 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.


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