After Newsom’s veto, California lawmakers are once again trying to ban tampons containing “forever chemicals.”

(Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)

After Newsom’s veto, California lawmakers are once again trying to ban tampons containing “forever chemicals.”

California Politics

Mackenzie Mays

March 12, 2024

A new bill could ban the sale of tampons and other menstrual products containing potentially toxic chemicals in California, reigniting pressure from women’s rights groups and environmentalists on the administration. Gavin Newsom was rejected last year.

Under a proposal from Assemblymember Diane Papan (D-San Mateo), the state would be required to identify and assess the dangers of perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, in menstrual products and make that information available to the public.

Exposure to some PFAs, considered “forever chemicals” because of their indestructibility, has been linked to kidney cancer, elevation of cholesterol, liver dysfunction and preeclampsia, a serious pregnancy complication, according to the CDC. Recent research has found that these chemicals are found in some brands of popular tampons and pads.

“This is a step in protecting women from PFAS in one of the most intimate ways it can be exposed to our bodies,” Papan said at a press conference at the Capitol on Monday.

A similar bill introduced last year received bipartisan support and not a single “no” vote in the Legislature, but Newsom vetoed it despite saying he “strongly” supported its intent. The Democratic governor, who otherwise supports policies that protect women’s health, said such chemical bans have proven difficult to implement and have caused confusion.

“I am concerned that this bill will fail to provide stronger protections for California consumers due to a lack of regulatory oversight,” Newsom said in his veto message last year, adding that there have been “inconsistent” interpretations of existing laws by manufacturers regarding restrictions.

Newsom has signed legislation banning PFAs in food packaging and cosmetics, but has vetoed other proposals to ban the chemicals in cleaning products and artificial turf, citing similar regulatory issues.

The new version of the bill, known as the Tampon Act, directs the California Department of Toxic Substances Control to engage with industry leaders before issuing regulations in response to Newsom’s concerns.

“We believe that this is certainly something that will undermine the veto message,” Papan said Monday.

If approved by the Legislature and the governor, the law would go into effect in 2027 and impose fines on companies that violate the new ban on those chemicals, and give consumers the opportunity to file a lawsuit.

Papan said there is no cost associated with the bill and it could generate funding for the state by collecting fines from tampon makers that violate the new law.

A 2022 consumer survey found that of 23 lab-tested tampon brands, 22% contained evidence of PFAS. The study, conducted by environmental watchdog group Mamavation in partnership with Environmental Health News, found traces of forever chemicals in some Playtex and Tampax products, as well as in some tampons labeled as organic.

According to the EPA, PFAs have also been found in nonstick cookware and drinking water.

“We have to figure out the regulatory side of this problem… because we can’t choose not to address it,” Assemblymember Pilar Schiavo (D-Chatsworth) said Monday in support of the bill.

Tampons were previously a subject of legislation in California. In 2021, Newsom signed a bill requiring public schools to provide free menstrual products. In 2019, he temporarily eliminated a sales tax on menstrual products.


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