PFAS and Cosmetics: Another Lawsuit, Another ESG Lesson

Monday, February 28, 2022

PFAS and cosmetics is a topic that saw increased scrutiny from the scientific community, legislature, and the media in 2021. As we predicted in early 2021, the increased attention on the industry presented significant risks to the cosmetics industry, and our prediction was that the developments made the cosmetics industry the number two target for future PFAS lawsuits. Shortly before the New Year, two industry giants – Shiseido and CoverGirl – were hit with separate lawsuits related to their cosmetics and PFAS content in some of the companies’ products. On February 22, 2022, L’Oreal was hit with a similar lawsuit in California. The industry, insurers, and investment companies interested in the consumer goods vertical with niche interest in cosmetics companies must pay careful attention to the L’Oreal lawsuit and the increasing trend of lawsuits targeting the industry.

Cosmetics and PFAS: the 2021 Foundation

On June 15, 2021, a scientific study in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology Letters published conclusions regarding testing of a variety of cosmetics products from the United States and Canada for PFAS content, and found PFAS present in over half of the products. On the same day that the study was published, the No PFAS In Cosmetics Act 2021 was introduced in the Senate by U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Angus King (I-ME). The bill sought to ban PFAS in cosmetics.

Why PFAS In Cosmetics Is A Concern

PFAS content in cosmetics raises concerns for human health in scientific communities due to the fact that PFAS are capable of entering the bloodstream in ways other than direct oral ingestion, and one of these ways includes dermal absorption. Concerns have also been raised regarding absorption of PFAS into the bloodstream by way of tear ducts. The absorption issue is one that is being studied fairly extensively through various pending scientific studies. At the end of 2021, the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) went so far as to recommend that citizens in Southern New Hampshire reduce their risk of further PFAS exposure by avoiding the use of certain consumer goods, including cosmetics.