EPA Rejects TSCA Petition to End Use of Hazardous Chemicals in Mixtures for Cosmetics

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) received a petition earlier this year requesting that it take several steps to help protect against the inclusion of hazardous chemical substances in cosmetics. Following its review over three months, the Agency recently issued a response to the petition in denial of the petitioner’s requests. Here we take a brief look at the focus of the petition and the EPA’s response to it.

Petition Requests

The petition was issued in August 2021 by William D. Bush under Section 21 of the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). Among other things, the petition notes that the inclusion of toxic chemicals in cosmetics is unreasonable. It also notes that cosmetic disposal presents an unreasonable environmental risk.

According to the petition, it was requested that the EPA:

  • "Determine in accordance with the Control of Toxic Substances Code that the chemical mixtures contained within cosmetics present an unreasonable risk of injury to public health and the environment"
  • "Order by Rule that the manufacturing producers of cosmetics eliminate the hazardous chemicals used in mixtures"
  • (examples of hazardous chemicals listed include dibutyl and diethylhexyl phthalates, formaldehyde, isobutyl and isopropyl parabens, m- and o-phenylenediamine, mercury, methylene glycol, paraformaldehyde, PFAS, and quaternium 15)

More specific information on these requests can be found by reviewing the petition itself.

Following a careful review of the petition, the EPA issued a denial of it. Several reasons were cited for this. The Agency concluded that the petition failed to demonstrate facts, relative to the disposal of any specific chemical substance, supporting an unreasonable environmental risk determination. It was also concluded that cosmetics cannot be regulated under TSCA section 6(a). Because cosmetics are not considered chemical substances under TSCA (when manufactured, processed, or distributed in commerce for cosmetic use), the requested actions within the petition fall outside of the EPA's authority. While it is unlikely that the denial of this petition will be legally challenged, this remains to be seen.

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