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Cosmetic Products Rulemaking

Ecology, Department of
Title of action
Cosmetic Products Rulemaking
Date significant agency action was initiated
Wednesday, May 22, 2024
Significant legislative rules
Brief description of significant agency actions for which the agency is initiating an environmental justice assessment.
The Washington Department of Ecology (Ecology) started a rulemaking to develop a new chapter in the Washington Administrative Code (WAC): Chapter 173-339 WAC—Cosmetic Products Restrictions. Ecology is conducting this rulemaking to: • Make cosmetics safer for consumers and the environment. • Reduce consumers’ and workers’ exposure to formaldehyde. • Address the disproportionate harms caused by cosmetic products in overburdened communities and vulnerable populations. • Reduce the amount of formaldehyde entering the environment. Under the authority of Chapter 70A.560 RCW (Toxic-Free Cosmetics Act), Ecology may adopt a rule that identifies chemicals used in cosmetic products that release formaldehyde (formaldehyde releasers) and adopt restrictions for the identified formaldehyde releasers. This rule may include: • Restrictions that apply to the use of specified formaldehyde releasers used in cosmetic products. • Allowances for products currently in the chain of commerce—stockpiled or available for purchase. • Compliance schedules. • Definitions of key terms such as “intentionally added.” • Other requirements or restrictions allowed by law. Background People use cosmetic products every day to clean their bodies or alter their appearance. Cosmetic products include items such as makeup, perfume, shampoo, hair gels, body wash, deodorant, hand lotion, and shaving cream. These products can contain chemicals that are toxic to people and the environment. In the Chemicals in Cosmetics Used by Washington Residents report (January, 2023), Ecology and the Department of Health found that many cosmetic products contain toxic chemicals. Some products disproportionately marketed to women of color, such as hair relaxers and skin lightening creams, often contain toxic chemicals. Some chemicals used in cosmetic products release formaldehyde, which exposes people to the chemical when they use the product. Formaldehyde can cause cancer, harm brain function, increase the risk of asthma, and irritate eyes and skin. Exposure can also lead to allergic reactions. Cosmetic products also can release formaldehyde into indoor and outdoor air. Formaldehyde can also enter wastewater streams as products are washed down the drain. In 2023, Washington state adopted Chapter 70A.560 RCW to ensure the safety of cosmetic products and protect Washington residents from toxic exposure. The law: • Restricts the manufacture, sale, and distribution of cosmetic products containing nine chemicals or chemical classes. • Directs Ecology to assess the hazards of chemicals or chemical classes that can provide the same or similar function as the restricted chemicals or chemical classes and make that information available to the public. • Directs Ecology to implement initiatives to support small businesses that manufacture cosmetic products, and to support independent cosmetologists and small businesses that provide cosmetology services in efforts to transition to safer cosmetic products. • Authorizes Ecology to adopt a rule that restricts the use of specified formaldehyde releasers in cosmetic products.
Methods for providing public comment for agency consideration as part of the environmental justice assessment.
We plan to conduct engagement for this rulemaking starting this summer and into the winter of 2024. Engagement efforts may include public meetings, a focus group, outreach with community-based organizations, opportunities to review and comment on draft rule requirements, public comment periods, and formal public hearings. We will focus on engaging with overburdened communities and vulnerable populations most impacted by formaldehyde releasers in cosmetic products. We will also invite consultation from Tribes who may additionally be interested in informing the development of this work. As this work continues to develop, we will share details about engagement opportunities and resources on our website and through our email distribution list. For more information, sign up for email announcements, visit our rulemaking webpage, or contact Stacey Callaway, rulemaking lead, at or 360-584-5661. As we schedule additional opportunities to provide feedback and participate in workshops, we will share details on our webpages and via our email list. We anticipate: • Developing draft rule requirements in the summer of 2024. Our next webinar will occur on June 11, 2024. See our events listing webpage for more information. Use our online comment form to provide feedback on draft rule requirements, the rulemaking process, and our efforts to implement Chapter 70A.560 RCW. • Proposing a formal draft rule, providing a public comment period, and hosting hearings, in the fall and winter of 2024. • Adopting the revised rule in the spring or summer of 2025.