Lead In Lipstick

Did you receive that e-mail about lead in lipstick, warning us of the danger?

Certainly caused me some concern when I read it. Although that e-mail was shown to be a hoax, the question it raised is still a red hot topic.

My research has revealed interesting facts about the amounts of lead in lipstick and whether or not we should look at those little bullets of rich vibrant colour as ‘toxic lipstick’.

It has been estimated the average woman ingests about 1.8 kilograms of lipstick in her lifetime.

I don’t know how they figured out that one; but I do know when I eat, drink or lick my lips, the lipstick disappears off my lips, so I reapply it as soon as I can. Hmm ...

So What If I Eat Lead Every Day!

According to medical sources, lead makes you anxious and depressed. You can also get headaches and muscle aches. Toxic levels cause allergies, skin problems and yes, even cancer.

Exposure to lead can result in intellectual and behavioural problems and has also been linked to kidney damage, infertility and miscarriage.

If you’re pregnant and wearing lipstick, you should know lead can cross into the placenta. It can cause learning, language, and behavioral problems such as lowered

Where’s The Proof?

This is where it gets really interesting and convincing.

Tests conducted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last year on 22 red lipsticks found lead, a neurotoxin, in every single lipstick sample studied.

The highest levels were in three well-known and common brands: Cover Girl, Revlon and L'Oreal.

While the FDA is continuing lead research on additional cosmetic brands and colours, it is reassuring consumers that the lead levels it found in the red lipsticks are very small and not a health threat.

The FDA does not regulate lead in finished cosmetics, only in colours added to the products. None of the products exceeded the 20 parts per million limit on colours, the agency said.

Go here to find out which lipsticks were tested and what the FDA policy regarding lead in lipstick is.

Why Do We Have Lead in Lipstick?

Yes, I puzzled over that question too.

An American industry trade group, the Personal Care Products Council, said manufacturers did not add lead intentionally.

"Because lead is found naturally in air, water and soil, it may also be found at extremely low levels as a trace contaminant in the raw ingredients used in formulating cosmetics, just as it is in many thousands of other products," the group states.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is not convinced.

The lead found in 'Cover Girl Incredifull Lipcolor - Maximum Red’ was 34 times higher than the lead found in the lowest scoring lipstick, Avon's 'Ultra Color Rich - Cherry Jubilee'.

Clearly, the manufacturers are capable of doing better, said Stacy Malkan of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Stacy went on to say that some companies are not doing a good job sourcing their ingredients.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is calling on the FDA to require cosmetics manufacturers to reduce lead to the lowest achievable levels.

"The reason we're worried is that lead builds up in the body over time," Ms Malkan said. "Even small levels of lead, recent science shows, is dangerous at any level to developing children."

What should consumers do?

Ms Malkan noted that glosses generally tested lower for lead than highly pigmented, opaque lipsticks, so that's what she uses.

"We need to change the laws to require companies to disclose what's in their products."

In Australia it is mandatory for cosmetics to list all ingredients on their labels and for cosmetics containing lead to carry warning statements and safety directions.

The blood-red Dior lipstick, sold at beauty counters across Australia, was among dozens of lipsticks found to contain lead, after US lobby group Campaign for Safe Cosmetics commissioned an independent laboratory to test lead levels in 33 brand-name lipsticks.

The results, made public in a report last October, revealed 61% of the lipsticks tested had detectable lead levels.

One-third of the lipsticks exceeded the US Food and Drug Administration's accepted level of lead (0.1 parts per million) for products that are ingested.

Christian Dior Addict "Positive Red" (0.21 ppm) available in Australia does not list lead as an ingredient or carry a warning.

Health Canada has also released a study of lead in lipstick, where 21 out of 26 lipsticks tested contained lead ranging from .07 to .84 ppm and one product contained an alarmingly high lead level of 6.3 ppm.

What an Environmental Toxicologist Says

Peter Dingle, an environmental toxicologist from Murdoch University, WA and author of the Dangerous Beauty booklet, has called for regulatory change to ban lead from cosmetic products to protect consumer health.

"It is ridiculous that we have any lead in our cosmetics at all," he said. "For the last 50 years we have campaigned to get lead out of everything and here we are putting it in lipstick. It's crazy."

Mr Dingle says companies that claim the levels of lead in their products are too low to cause harm are talking nonsense.

"We've known for 200 years that lead is toxic and the research now is showing that lead, even at the absolute lowest concentration, still has a toxic effect on our body … not to mention the cumulative effect it could have."

So what now?

I will continue to wear lipstick and now I am aware of the lead in lipstick, I shall choose those which have low levels of lead.

Then there are organic lipsticks and mineral lipsticks to choose from.

What will you do?

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