New Zealand Becomes the First Country to Ban ‘Forever Chemicals’ in Cosmetics

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In a groundbreaking move, New Zealand is the first country to ban “forever chemicals” in cosmetics starting in 2026. The country’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has prohibited the use of PFAS to safeguard both people and the environment from the hazards associated with these chemicals.

What Are “Forever Chemicals?”

PFAS, specifically perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, earn the label “forever chemicals” because of their slow breakdown process. This characteristic raises concerns about their potential accumulation in humans, animals, and the environment. Cosmetic applications utilize PFAS to condition and smooth skin and hair, or to influence product consistency and texture. Concerns persist regarding the potential links between PFAS and cancers and birth defects, as well as adverse effects on both humans and animals.

They have been detected in drinking water, sea foam, rainwater and human blood, as well as cosmetic items like shaving cream and lipstick. New Zealand EPA’s hazardous substances reassessments manager, Dr. Shaun Presow, told The Guardian: “We know these chemicals don’t easily break down, they can build up in our bodies and some can be toxic at high levels.”

Products With the Highest PFAS Levels

During a study in 2021 Researchers at Notre Dame discovered that certain cosmetic products exhibited the highest levels of PFAS. Waterproof mascara topped the list with 82 percent, followed by long-lasting lipstick at 62 percent. The study tested 230 products and found that 56 percent of foundations and eye products, 48 percent of lip products and 47 percent of mascaras contained fluorine, an indicator of PFAS.

Stateside Efforts to Ban “Forever Chemicals”

While New Zealand’s move to ban PFAS in cosmetics is a major step, some states in the U.S have already taken action. California, in 2022, became the first major jurisdiction to ban all PFAS in cosmetics, which will be enforced in 2025. Maine and Minnesota recently passed legislation prohibiting products with PFAS from 2030. Additionally, the European Union is actively working on a broader ban on these chemicals.

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