Will New Zealand be the first nation in the world to ban PFAS in cosmetics?
22 Mar 2023 --- New Zealand’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) is revising its cosmetics regulation to align with European Union’s (EU) policy approach and extend consumer protection. It is also proposing to ban the use of all per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in cosmetic products starting in 2026.
PFAS are also known as forever chemicals that are notorious due to their “extremely persistent” nature while also having bioaccumulative toxic effects on human health.
“We’re committed to keeping cosmetics rules up to date and these changes will continue to help protect New Zealanders and our environment,” says Dr. Shaun Presow, hazardous substances reassessments manager at EPA.
EPA is now seeking feedback on the proposed updates to New Zealand’s Cosmetic Products Group Standard regulation by the end of May. Based on this and the decision-making process that it will entail, New Zealand may mark a historic leap in PFAS regulation.
“What we are proposing is a precaution and, if accepted, would make New Zealand one of the first countries in the world to take this step,” continues Presow.
“PFAS are sometimes used as ingredients in products such as nail polish, shaving cream, foundation, lipstick and mascara. They are used to condition and smooth the skin, making it appear shiny, or to improve product spreadability,” shares the EPA.
Zeroing in on regulation proposals
EPA is suggesting three main changes to its cosmetics regulation. These align New Zealand’s ingredients rules with Regulation (EC) No 1223/2009, phasing out PFAS ingredients and extending the group standard to cover more products.
Cosmetic Products Group Standard already contains a list of ingredients that are banned, restricted or subject to other rules. An update will ensure that the list matches the requirements of the EU, which is touted as a globally high standard.
“This will make it easier to enforce rules for banned and restricted ingredients that may be in cosmetic products,” says Presow.
Further, EPA notes that some cosmetics contain hazardous concentrations that are too small to classify the whole product as hazardous. So to extend the group standard, the organization is proposing that such products must comply with the changes suggested to the group standard regulation.
This includes several proposals to update International Fragrance Association obligations, maintain clear nanomaterial records, add the UK to the alternative compliance list (reflecting its split from the EU) and simplify fragrance allergens, among others.
International community cracks down
The EU is moving closer toward restricting PFAS in all non-essential products, including cosmetics. Its proposal calls for a restriction on 10,000 PFAS drafted in a joint effort by five member states.
EPA notes that California, US, was the first major jurisdiction to ban all PFAS in cosmetics. From January 2025, the bill will prohibit a person or entity from manufacturing, selling, delivering, holding or offering for sale in commerce any cosmetic product that contains intentionally added PFAS.
“PFAS are not essential ingredients in cosmetics, and international research suggests that they’re only found in a few products. But these chemicals don’t easily break down and may build up in our bodies,” notes Presow.
The proposal adds: “The direct nature of exposure to PFAS due to their use in cosmetics is an amplifier of human health concerns. Some of the manufacturers of these products are actively reformulating products to avoid PFAS ingredients in the future.”
“Evidence suggests intentional use of PFAS in cosmetics is not essential and alternatives are available. The risk profiles of the many different PFAS compounds differ. However, they are generally very persistent and lesser-studied PFAS generally have less certainty about their risk profiles.”
It flags that although environmental contributors of PFAS may be “moderate,” their environmental persistence and risk to human health is concerning.
A recent study found that toilet paper is an “unexpected source of PFAS” and has been detected in wastewater across several continents.
By Venya Patel
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