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EPA bans ‘forever chemicals’ in cosmetic products

The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has banned the use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in cosmetic products from 31 December 2026.

New Zealand is one of the first countries in the world to take this step on PFAS – often described as ‘forever chemicals’ – to further protect consumers and the environment.

PFAS are sometimes used in products such as nail polish, shaving cream, foundation, lipstick, and mascara. They are added to smooth the skin, or to make cosmetic products more durable, spreadable and water resistant.

“We know these chemicals don’t easily break down, they can build up in our bodies, and some can be toxic at high levels,” says Dr Shaun Presow, Hazardous Substances Reassessments Manager.

“International research suggests PFAS are only found in a small number of products, but we take a precautionary approach to potential risks from PFAS. Banning these chemicals in cosmetics is part of our ongoing response, which includes phasing out all PFAS-firefighting foams and testing for background levels of PFAS in the New Zealand environment.”

The decision on PFAS is one of a number of updates that have been made to the Cosmetic Products Group Standard, to ensure cosmetic products are safe and the rules better align with international developments.

“We’ve also strengthened the regulations so non-hazardous cosmetic products that contain a hazardous ingredient are now regulated,” says Dr Presow.

“This makes it easier for us to enforce the rules around banned and restricted ingredients that may be found in these products.”

The EPA publicly consulted on the rule changes in 2023 and received 20 submissions, including 14 from the cosmetics industry.

“The feedback from our consultation was particularly important for us to better understand how widespread PFAS use is in cosmetics, and was supportive of the changes,” says Dr Presow.

“We will continue to engage with industry to manage the transition before PFAS are banned and the other changes take effect.”

Read full details of the changes to cosmetic products rules.

 

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