AB 1989 is Not Enough to Protect the Health of People Who Menstruate
UPDATE 7/22/20: Because so many of you joined WVE in voicing your concerns about the bill — contacted Assemblymember Garcia’s office, emailed your representatives, called and tweeted decision makers and put the pressure on P&G and Kimberly Clark — we were able to help strengthen this bill to provide you with more information about what are in period care products. THANK YOU! Your voices and actions made a huge difference! Please CLICK HERE to get an update on where the bill stands now.
Legislation was recently introduced in California that would allow manufacturers of menstrual products to hide some ingredients as confidential business information (CBI). AB 1989, introduced by Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, is a huge step backwards from legislation that was passed in New York — and signed into law in 2019 — that requires disclosure of all intentionally added ingredients in menstrual products.
Menstrual products like tampons, pads, and menstrual cups are regulated by the FDA as medical devices. The FDA does not require the disclosure of ingredients in these products, and language/design of menstrual product labels are NOT required to get pre-market approval from the FDA.
In October 2019 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law A.164B (introduced by Linda B. Rosenthal) making New York the first state in the nation to require disclosure of all intentionally-added ingredients in menstrual products on the label. The bill passed with the support of Women’s Voices for the Earth, Clean and Healthy New York, WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, and the JustGreen Partnership.
It’s unclear why Assemblymember Garcia, the self-proclaimed “period princess,” who has notably worked to increase access to menstrual products in schools and eliminate the tampon tax, is pushing to pass a bill that gives Californians less information than people will have in New York. However, if she wants to raise her profile as a champion for menstrual equity, this bill is not the way to do it.
Women’s Voices for the Earth is greatly concerned about language in the bill that would allow companies to keep hidden ingredients they claim are confidential business information. The New York law requires all intentionally added ingredients to be disclosed on the label in order of predominance and does not include any CBI language that would allow companies to hide certain ingredients.
Also, in California AB 1989 allows manufacturers to not disclose any fragrance ingredients below 100ppm. In New York, there is no de minimis level for disclosure of fragrance ingredients.
Manufacturers have to comply with the New York law, so why not give Californians access to the same information that companies will be disclosing anyways? Instead, Assemblymember Garcia is advocating for giving Californians less information by allowing companies to claim CBI for ingredients as long as the ingredient is not on a designated list of chemicals of concern.
The Issue with Designated Lists and Period Products
Now, designated lists are a great source to identify chemicals that have been established by governmental authorities as posing health risks. However, just because a chemical is NOT on a designated list doesn’t mean it’s necessarily safe. And this is why AB 1989 concerns us so much.
For example: synthetic musks like Galaxolide (commonly found in fragrance), other fragrance ingredients, and super absorbent polymers and plasticizers (like Irganox and tributyl acetyl citrate) are not on any designated lists. Irganox and tributyl acetyl have been detected in menstrual products via testing, and Galaxolide has a Green Screen score as Benchmark 1, meaning it’s use should be avoided.
There is still so much we don’t know about the health impacts related to exposure of ingredients. As scientists learn more about the potential hazards of these chemicals, they also need to learn more about where and how we are exposed. And users of these products should have the right to know about (and be able to avoid) these emerging chemicals of concern.
In addition, the route of exposure to chemicals from menstrual products is both unique and poorly understood. We simply do not know if vaginal absorption of chemicals from menstrual products poses more of a risk than absorbing the same chemicals through skin. Hormonal contraceptives for example, impact the reproductive system at much lower doses when applied by vaginal ring than with a dermal skin patch. In order to better understand the health impacts of chemical exposures from menstrual products, we need to know what is in them, including chemicals that are not on designated lists.
It is incredibly disappointing to see Assemblymember Garcia introduce AB 1989, which clearly does not have the best interest of people who menstruate at heart, especially considering her past work on menstrual equity. If passed, this bill would set a bad standard for industry and do nothing to move menstrual equity forward.