Breast Cancer Month 2020: California Steps Up to the Plate

breast-cancer breast-cancer-awareness california law policy

This Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we wanted to share some good news. In California, over the past month, 3 landmark acts have been approved. These acts concern the regulation of harmful chemicals that have been linked to breast cancer, among many other serious health concerns.

If you are familiar with what we do at Think Dirty, you may already be aware of the links between exposure to oft-used toxins in personal care products and the risk of developing severe health conditions. If not, it is time to listen up, because there is a whole lot of information out there that will make you want to throw away every product you own.

First up, the aptly named California Cosmetic Fragrance and Flavor Ingredient Right to Know Act will require companies to disclose any ingredient used in a fragrance or flavor that appears on the California hazard lists. These are non-exhaustive lists of chemicals that have been linked to cancer or reproductive toxicity. Recently, data has shown that one-third of all chemicals used in fragrances have been flagged as potentially toxic by scientists. Previously, when products contained fragrance or flavor, the company was not required to list the individual ingredients included within the formula as it was considered proprietary information. This often functioned as a loophole for companies to use unsavory ingredients like phthalates and parabens without printing them on the ingredient list.

This act is the first law of its kind, on the federal or state level, to require disclosure of such ingredients.

Another bill entitled the Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act, was approved into law by California Governor Gavin Newsom on September 30. This legislation will ban 24 specific chemicals from cosmetics or personal care products sold within the state. The list includes harmful and widely used ingredients like dibutyl phthalate and isopropyl/butylparaben. Many of these chemicals have been linked to breast cancer, in addition to numerous other chronic and acute health issues.

In addition to the cosmetics-focused Acts, California also introduced a bill that, if approved, would ban the use and sale of per-fluoroalkyl substances, known under the umbrella term PFAS. PFAS chemicals are currently used in firefighting foam substances, in addition to many consumer products like packaging, clothing, and cosmetics. PFAS have been linked to breast cancer, infertility, liver and kidney damage, systemic organ toxicity, and other health concerns. This is of particular concern for firefighters, especially women firefighters, as they are routinely exposed to PFAS while performing their crucial jobs. On top of the numerous health risks that PFAS pose, they are what’s known as a “forever chemical” due to the fact that they do not break down and remain in the environment forever. Bad for the environment, bad for our health.

Hopefully, these actions by California lawmakers will set the precedent and tone, and bills of this kind will be further adopted by other states. Who knows, maybe even one day the U.S. will have more stringent regulation at the federal level surrounding the use of extremely hazardous chemicals in consumer products. We will continue to fight to educate consumers. When you vote with your dollars you force companies to do better.

Breast Cancer Month: More Reading & Resources


Breast Cancer Month 2020: California Steps Up to the Plate was originally published in Think Dirty on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.


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