UPDATE (September 30, 2020): Today, Governor Newsom signed California bill AB 1989 into law. Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) remains concerned about the barriers this bill continues to create in regards to vital ingredient information necessary to protect public health, and the role corporate influence played in restricting transparency and the rights of people who menstruate.
WVE also acknowledges and extends our sincere gratitude to our numerous supporters in California who voiced their concerns about this bill — as well as organizations, including California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, Sierra Club, CALPIRG, Breast Cancer Prevention Partners, Center for Environmental Health, Period Equity, Turning Green, and the National Women’s Health Network — who joined WVE to push back against corporate interest and helped strengthen AB 1989.
Ingredient disclosure of the products we use on our bodies and in our homes is imperative to providing people with the information they need to make informed decisions about their health — and in holding corporations accountable for product safety. By allowing corporations to continue to hide allergens, fragrances ingredients and other concerning chemicals, AB 1989 has created a dangerous precedent for future disclosure policy, and is not enough to protect the health of people who menstruate.
(RELEASED: September 1, 2020): Introduced by Assemblymember, Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), AB 1989 requires the disclosure of some ingredients in tampons, pads, menstrual cup and underwear, but allows companies to continue to withhold critical ingredient information from people who menstruate. If signed by the Governor, California will become the second state in the nation to pass a bill aimed at increasing ingredient transparency of period care products.
Since the introduction of AB 1989, Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) has had concerns about the bill, from its restrictions on ingredient disclosure and the role corporate influence played in these restrictions — to the limited engagement and insight from reproductive justice and public health groups who advocate for the people who will be most impacted by the passing of AB 1989.
There is no doubt that people who menstruate need to know what ingredients are in the period care products they are using in and on their body. For decades, these products have been woefully under-regulated and under-researched. As a result, there is so much unknown about their manufacturing, ingredients and potential health impacts. While AB 1989 will provide people with some ingredient information, the bill’s disclosure is far too limiting — it will hamper the progress of needed research, and continue to create barriers to vital ingredient information.
The bill’s treatment of allergens is particularly concerning. For example, two problematic allergens known to cause genital contact dermatitis — Methylisothiazolinone (MI) and the combination of Methylchloroisothiazolinone/methylisothiazolinone (MCI) — do not need to be disclosed under AB 1989. Studies show that these allergens are commonly used as preservatives in adhesives like the kinds used on menstrual pads. This is the type of information that should require disclosure, instead AB 1989 will allow corporations to continue to withhold this information from the public. Companies, Procter and Gamble (makers of Tampax and Always) and Kimberly Clark (Kotex), opposed the disclosure of allergens MI and MCI.
AB 1989 also puts alarming restrictions on fragrance disclosure by only requiring disclosure above a 100ppm threshold. Fragrance can contain toxic ingredients, and considering the use of these products in the vagina and on sensitive vulvar tissue, this is information people who menstruate have a right to know, no matter the level.
In short, this is a disclosure bill that allows corporations to hide allergens; to hide fragrance chemicals.
Last year, New York became the first state in the nation to require disclosure of all intentionally-added ingredients in menstrual products on the label, with no threshold levels for fragrance disclosure or new allowances for CBI protection besides what’s already required under common law protection for CBI. The New York bill has set a new precedent for ingredient transparency of period care products. California had an opportunity to replicate this right to know policy, instead they passed AB 1989.
There is much more on the horizon for ingredient transparency and the safety of period care products. New York’s ground-breaking law, and — while flawed — AB 1989, are both clear examples that keeping ingredient secrets, especially in products that come into such intimate contact with the body, is simply not acceptable.
On the federal front, Congresswoman Grace Meng, has re-introduced her Menstrual Products Right to Know Act that like the New York bill is designed to ensure complete ingredient transparency, and puts public health over corporate interest. Nearly 50 environmental, women’s, health, and justice organization have signed on in support of Congresswoman Meng’s Menstrual Products Right to Know Act. In contrast, one organization signed on in support of AB 1989.