What Are PFAS?

PFAS stands for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances. PFAS are manmade chemicals. Manufacturers have used PFAS in consumer products since the 1950s, including “non-stick cookware, water-repellent clothing, stain resistant fabrics and carpets, some cosmetics, some firefighting foams, and products that resist grease, water, and oil.” (1)

Why Are PFAS Harmful?

Multiple studies have considered possible links between PFAS levels in your blood and harmful health effects. Studies have focused on a variety of adverse medical complications linked to high levels of these substances, including: (2)

  • Increased cholesterol levels.
  • Increased risk of kidney or testicular cancer.
  • Increased risk of high blood pressure or pre-eclampsia in pregnant women.
  • Decreased vaccine response in children.
  • Decreases in infant birth weights.
  • Changes in liver enzymes.

Many Cosmetics Contain PFAS

Researchers have found PFAS are a “highly persistent and potentially toxic class of chemicals” cosmetic manufacturers add to their products. Manufacturers may use these chemicals to increase a product’s durability and water resistance. (3)

Specifically, waterproof, sweatproof, and long-wearing cosmetics “contain higher levels of a potentially toxic class of thousands of chemicals” identified as PFAS. In addition, PFAS accumulate in the body instead of naturally degrading. (4)

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked the chemicals to serious kidney, liver, immunological, developmental and reproductive issues.” Also, PFAS may affect your “antibody response to vaccines such as those for covid-19.” (5)

“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.” (6)

What Cosmetic Products Contain PFAS?

Manufacturers of personal care products commonly use a dozen or more PFAS in lotions, cosmetics, hair products, and other personal care items. PFAS are supposed to make these products more water resistant, durable, and spreadable. Even small amounts, which are not listed on ingredient labels, are used in many more products. (7)

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), you can find PFAS in: (8)

  • Mascara.
  • Foundation.
  • Lipstick.
  • Eyeliner.
  • Eyeshadow.
  • Nail polish.
  • Lotion.
  • Cleansers.
  • Shaving cream.

High levels of fluorine are indicators of PFAS. In one study, scientists led by the University of Notre Dame found fluorine in 52% of the 231 cosmetics they tested. Also, 63% percent of makeup foundations, 55% of lip products, and 47% of mascaras contained high levels of fluorine. (9)

Scientists for the Environmental Working Group “reviewed its Skin Deep database of listed ingredients in cosmetics.” They “found 13 different PFAS compounds used in more than 300 products among more than 50 brands.” (10)

Sometimes other ingredients named on an ingredients list are not PFAS themselves but were treated with PFAS. These include synthetic mica and fluorinated dimethicone. (11)

If you have suffered medical complications due to PFAS in cosmetic products, contact us today to understand your legal rights.

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What Cosmetic Products Do Not Contain PFAS?

More often than not, PFAS show up in the cosmetics we buy. However, according to PFAS Central, a Project of Green Science Policy, these retail stores do not use PFAS in their cosmetic and personal care products: (12)

  • Credo.
  • H&M.
  • Whole Foods Market.
  • Sephora (Clean at Sephora).

In addition, these manufacturers do not use PFAS in cosmetic and personal care products: (13)

  • Annmarie Skin Care.
  • California Baby.
  • Type:A deodorant.
  • Hawk Tools.
  • Otter Wax (body and skincare).
  • Reed + Gwen (personal care).

PFAS in Mascara Lawsuits

Weitz & Luxenberg is taking a lead in filing lawsuits to get justice for our clients who have purchased waterproof mascara containing dangerous PFAS. Several lawsuits have been filed on their behalf. Our lawsuits allege companies do not disclose that their mascara and other products contain PFAS.

“The scope of this deception is just beginning to reveal itself,” says James Bilsborrow, W&L partner and our Environmental, Toxic Tort & Consumer Protection group co-chair. “Scientists are vigorously investigating hundreds of cosmetic and personal care products that have the potential to endanger the health of consumers.”

Mascara Lawsuits Filed

The first W&L lawsuit for PFAS in mascara was filed in February 2022. Then Weitz & Luxenberg filed in a New York federal court for a class action lawsuit against L’Oreal in March 2022. (14)

This lawsuit states the “products were fraudulently and misleadingly marketed as safe for consumers and environmentally friendly, in violation of federal and state consumer laws.” In essence, L’Oreal failed to disclose to consumers about PFAS in their waterproof mascara. They misled consumers. (15)

The proposed class action suits are open to any U.S. consumer who purchased the relevant products. (16) A third lawsuit was filed in New York in April 2022, also for consumers who purchased cosmetics containing PFAS. The suit was filed against Coty, Inc., which owns CoverGirl.

In addition to L’Oreal, similar lawsuits have been filed against other “industry giants” – Shiseido, and Burt’s Bees. All of the lawsuits relate to cosmetics, some of which contain potentially toxic PFAS substances. (17)

Are PFAS Banned in Cosmetics?

On June 15, 2021, U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) introduced a bill called the No PFAS in Cosmetics Act. This bill “would ban the inclusion of PFAS chemicals in cosmetics products,” including make-up, moisturizer, and perfume. Senators Angus King (I-ME), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), are co-sponsoring the bill. (18)

Basically, the No PFAS in Cosmetics Act would direct the FDA “to issue a proposed rule banning the intentional addition of PFAS in cosmetics, as defined by the FDA, within 270 days of enactment, and require a final rule to be issued 90 days thereafter.” (19)

This act is important because, if passed, it would apply to all cosmetics the FDA currently oversees that are “marketed in the United States, whether manufactured here or imported from abroad.” This includes the requirement that all “Cosmetics produced or distributed for retail sale to consumers for their personal care are required to bear an ingredient declaration.” (20)

If your cosmetic products contain PFAS, contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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Dangers of PFAS in Cosmetics Still Being Evaluated

The No PFAS in Cosmetics Act is another step in the right direction — making sure cosmetics are safe for consumers. “The FDA will continue to monitor the PFAS literature for toxicity studies and for dermal absorption information” including: (21)

  • Toxicological profiles for PFAS in cosmetics.
  • The potential for human health risks from this type of exposure.
  • The extent various PFAS in cosmetics can be absorbed through the skin.

Legal Options

If you purchased cosmetic products you now suspect contain dangerous PFAS, you need to do something about it. And you need to do it soon. There is a time limit on how long you have to file a lawsuit against a company when it caused you harm.

Lawsuits are being filed across the country because these companies exposed you to toxic chemicals without you knowing they did. The lawsuits indicate consumers would not have even used the product at all — much less paid more for it — if they knew it contained PFAS.

You need to contact an experienced attorney for more information. The attorney can provide details on what steps you should take.

Because so many consumers have been misled by cosmetic manufacturers, this litigation is being filed as a potential class action lawsuit. Your attorney can let you know if you are eligible to join the lawsuit and seek compensation.

And when you choose an attorney, you want one who has successfully sued other large companies over exposure to PFAS. And at a firm used to taking on big corporations — a firm like Weitz & Luxenberg.

How W&L Can Help

Weitz & Luxenberg has been helping clients harmed by the actions of global manufacturing giants and large corporations for more than three decades. Because we are a national firm, we can join with our partners across the country to secure the best possible outcomes for our clients.

Here are a few examples of our W&L victories:

  • W&L attorneys secured a $65.25 million settlement $65.25 million settlement on behalf of businesses and residents whose drinking water supply was contaminated by the PFAS perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) in Hoosick Falls, New York.
  • W&L attorneys achieved a $23.5 million proposed settlement for residents exposed to water contaminated with PFOA, a PFAS chemical in Petersburgh, New York.
  • W&L attorneys secured a $423 million settlement on behalf of residents and businesses of 153 water systems across the country whose water was contaminated with the toxic gasoline additive MTBE, methyl tertiary butyl ether.