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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Lead in Your Lipstick

A new study by the FDA has found lead in all twenty of the lipsticks that they tested. From the press release by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics:
“Since recent science suggests that there is truly no safe lead exposure for children and pregnant women, it is disturbing that manufacturers are allowed to continue to sell lead-containing lipsticks," said Sean Palfrey, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and public health at Boston University and the medical director of Boston's Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.

“Lead is a proven neurotoxin that can cause learning, language and behavioral problems such as lowered IQ, reduced school performance and increased aggression. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure, because lead easily crosses the placenta and enters the fetal brain where it can interfere with normal development,” said Dr. Palfrey.

“Lead builds up in the body over time and lead-containing lipstick applied several times a day, every day, can add up to significant exposure levels,” said Mark Mitchell, M.D., MPH, president of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states: “No safe blood lead level has been identified.” The agency suggests avoiding all sources of lead exposure.

Given all these points, why do these lipsticks still contain lead? Well, because there are no FDA standards for lead in lipstick. So, there's nothing forcing the manufacturers to change their ingredients.
The FDA study found an average level of lead in lipsticks of 1.07 ppm – more than 10 times higher than its own standard for lead in candy. FDA’s standard for candy is based on the lowest lead level that can be achieved. A similar standard should be applied to lipstick.

So, how do we avoid lipstick with lead? Well, at this point there's no way of knowing which ones contain lead since it doesn't need to be listed. According to the NY Times, "The FDA leaves it up to manufacturers to decide which safety and efficacy tests to perform on products. Cosmetics companies are required to list their 'intended' ingredients on labels. But lead would be considered an 'unintended' byproduct of the manufacturing process."

Thanks FDA. But do not fear, here are 11 brands that previously tested lead free in a different study. You can also look for organic or natural beauty products, but probably the safest bet is to avoid it altogether.

How significant is this level of lead? Well, the last time a study was done on lead in lipstick the manufacturers of the lipsticks that contained lead (Cover Girl and L’Oreal) said that the amount of lead exposure in their lipsticks "is hundreds of times less than the amount that she would get from eating, breathing and drinking water." This doesn't exactly help out the consumer in making an educated choice. However, there's no need for lead to be in our lipstick, they can certainly be made without it.

For more information, check out the Lead in Lipstick FAQ. And the NY Times article, A Simple Smooch or a Toxic Smack?