Cosmetic Ban Bill Shelved After Getting Job Killer Tag

An Assembly policy committee this week postponed action on a cosmetic product ban identified by the California Chamber of Commerce as a job killer.

The ban will hurt California manufacturers, retailers, and the more than 415,000 California jobs in the personal care products industry.

AB 495 (Muratsuchi; D-Torrance/Wicks; D-Oakland) was discussed but not voted upon in the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee on April 9.

AB 495 would impose onerous and unnecessary economic burdens on California manufacturers and retailers by immediately banning thousands of personal care products from being sold in California.

The bill disregards sound scientific principles, bypasses a legislatively mandated analytical process to judge the safety of consumer products and seeks to prohibit safe cosmetic products based upon the mere presence of a chemical in the product, no matter the level, that could lead to potential regrettable substitutions and job losses in the cosmetic industry.

Product Safety

Product safety is a top priority for CalChamber member companies. They invest significant resources to evaluate the safety and environmental impact of all cosmetic products prior to offering them for sale to consumers.

Personal care products sold in California are subject to the California Safe Cosmetics Act of 2005 and Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2017, which require cosmetic businesses to identify all intentionally added ingredients in a product, which are known or suspected to pose harm to consumers, and report those products to the California Department of Public Health, and in addition list specified chemicals and allergens on product labels and websites.

Misguided Approach

AB 495 is misguided because it fails to recognize the integrated nature of actual hazards and unsafe exposure. The measure presumes that the mere presence of a chemical in a product, no matter how trace or de minimis, would be harmful to human health.

The mere presence of a chemical in a product cannot be a proxy for “exposure.” Actual exposure at a level sufficient to cause harm, as determined via rigorous analysis, should be the standard for more regulation.

Existing Process

The bill also circumvents California’s Safer Consumer Products program (aka “Green Chemistry”) within the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).

The 2008 law requires DTSC to establish a process to identify, prioritize, and, as necessary, evaluate chemicals of concern in consumer products and their potential alternatives. It was enacted with bipartisan support, and required scientists at DTSC, not the Legislature, to analyze the safety of and alternatives to chemical ingredients.

DTSC states “the regulations provide for a four-step continuous, science-based, iterative process to identify safer consumer product alternatives.”

This process includes creating a list of candidate chemicals; identifying priority product/candidate chemical combinations; requiring manufacturers to conduct alternative assessments; and, if warranted, imposing a wide array of regulatory responses, including chemical bans.

Science-Based Policy Needed

The Capitol Insider blog post on “The Return of the Product Ban Bills” highlights problems with policy not based on science.

An example is the AB 495 ban of cosmetic products containing formaldehyde, a chemical that is sure to conjure up creepy imagery of preserved specimens floating in jars full of formaldehyde solutions.

But formaldehyde in very low concentrations is used safely in cosmetics as a preservative to kill microorganisms and prevent or inhibit their growth in products precisely to keep the cosmetic safe for human use and extend product shelf life.

Formaldehyde is a naturally occurring chemical found in the air we breathe and even in our own bodies when synthesizing amino acids and metabolizing medications.

Severe Penalties

Marketing unsafe cosmetics products is already a crime under federal law. The law provides severe penalties—including seizures, recalls, fines and bans—for product manufacturers that do not meet strict federal safety requirements.

AB 495 is unwarranted and motivated by public opinion, not sound science.

Staff Contact: Adam Regele

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Adam Regele
Adam Regele joined the CalChamber in April 2018 as a policy advocate specializing in environmental policy, housing and land use, and product regulation issues. He came to CalChamber after practicing law at Oakland-based Meyers, Nave, Riback, Silver & Wilson, PLC, where he advised private and public clients on complex projects involving land use and environmental laws and regulations at the local, state and federal levels. Before entering private practice, Regele served as a federal judicial law clerk to the Honorable Edward J. Davila of the U.S. District Court, Northern District of California. Regele earned a B.S. in environmental science at the University of California, Berkeley, and a J.D. from UC Hastings College of Law, where he was symposium editor and research and development editor for the Hastings West-Northwest Journal.