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Country enacts historic ban on toxic cosmetic ingredient: 'Could lead to significant compliance requirements'

"Having taken this first step, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens."

"Having taken this first step, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens."

Photo Credit: iStock

In a historic move that will improve the health and well-being of its citizens, New Zealand announced it would ban "forever chemicals" — formally called PFAS — from cosmetics starting in 2026, per the Guardian.

Scientists call PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances) forever chemicals because they're notoriously difficult to get rid of, and some can take hundreds or thousands of years to break down in the environment. 

In the meantime, they contaminate the air, water, and soil with toxic chemicals, posing dangers to humans and animals. PFAS have been found in remote places such as the Arctic Ocean, drinking water, and even human blood and placentas

The Environmental Protection Agency stated that PFAS can build up in the body over time and can cause reproductive harm, developmental delays, increased risk of cancers, and poor immune health, among other issues. 

Because of their numerous hazards to people and the environment, New Zealand's Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) made the landmark decision to prevent PFAS from being used in cosmetics, as the Guardian reported

The Food and Drug Administration said that cosmetic companies use PFAS in products to "condition and smooth the skin and hair, making them appear shiny, or to affect product consistency and texture."

While the EPA said that only a small number of cosmetics tested contained PFAS, the agency wanted to ensure only clean cosmetics make it to store shelves in the future. 

Other countries around the world are also trying to phase out PFAS, including the United States, where several senators are pushing for laws to limit manufacturing of the chemicals. 

Walmart recently banned over 1,200 toxic ingredients, including PFAS, from its "clean beauty" makeup products. The European Union is also working on phasing out the chemicals, except where they're essential to society. 

Per the Guardian, the EPA believes New Zealand is the first country to ban PFAS in cosmetics, although some U.S. states such as California, Maine, and Minnesota have passed legislation to ban them in some products. 

Professor Allan Blackman at Auckland University of Technology's School of Science told the Guardian that even though the EPA didn't find any PFAS in New Zealand–based cosmetics, around 90% of beauty products are imported. 

"[That] could lead to significant compliance requirements for those involved in their importation, and indeed the disappearance of certain products from shelves post 2027," Blackman told the outlet.

"Having taken this first step, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens to other PFAS sources such as nonstick cookware and waterproof fabrics," he added.

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