New Zealand bans PFAS in cosmetics

Article by Adam Duckett

NEW ZEALAND has banned the use of PFAS in cosmetic products from the end of 2026 to protect consumers and the environment.

PFAS – or per– and polyfluoroalkyl substances – are chemicals whose persistence has earned them the label “forever chemicals”. This is not technically true as they can recovered from the environment and destroyed using chemical engineering techniques though it’s complex and the moniker has stuck.

“We know these chemicals don’t easily break down, they can build up in our bodies, and some can be toxic at high levels,” said Shaun Presow, hazardous substances reassessments manager at NZ’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA).

PFAS can be found in a wide variety of cosmetic products including lipstick, foundation, and shaving foam. They are added to smooth the skin and make products more spreadable and water resistant.

The EPA said while the chemicals are only found in a small number of products it is taking a precautionary approach to potential risks. The decision follows a public consultation last year that received 20 submissions including 14 from the cosmetics industry.

The EPA thinks New Zealand may be the first country to ban PFAS in cosmetics. It will engage with industry to manage the coming change.

It is also phasing out all PFAS-containing firefighting foams and testing for background levels of PFAS in the environment. In 2023, it banned PFAS-containing firefighting foam used in uncontained systems to prevent run-off contaminating the environment. This followed a discovery in 2017 that soil and water at the Ohakea and Woodbourne airbases had been contaminated by firefighting foam containing PFAS. Currently, PFAS-containing foams can still be used in contained systems that prevent the chemicals from reaching the environment, but from December 2025, all such firefighting foams will be banned.

Article by Adam Duckett

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