Dangerous Kiss: Lead in Your Lipstick


A new study released by the FDA shows that hundreds of lipsticks on the market have tested positive for lead – and many of the most popular brands top the list.

Over 400 brands were analyzed and every single one contained some lead. Both drugstore lines and high-end labels were affected, such as MAC, Chanel and Lancome, averaging 1.11 ppm (parts per million) for lead. The study revealed that one of Maybelline’s shades contained 7.19 ppm of lead, ranking number one of the “most contaminated” list. Nars, tested positive for lead – and many of the most popular brands top the list. L’Oreal and Cover Girl followed – ranking among the top five.

The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has a maximum contaminant level (MCL) designated for many products and household items.  For example, drinking water has an MCL of 15 ppm, while children’s toys have an MCL of 100 ppm. Cosmetics are not currently regulated by the FDA or EPA.

A campaign has evolved thanks to these findings – the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.  They are seeking an MCL of zero because, as co-founder of the campaign, Stacy Malkan, told ABCNews.com, “There is no safe level of lead exposure. It builds up in the body over time. A little bit every day is adding up and staying with you.” And the experts concur: Mark Mitchell, MD, MPH, co-chair of the Environmental Health Task Force for the National Medical Association says, “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. The latest studies show there is no safe level of lead exposure.”

Recent reports from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also reveal that there are no safe levels of lead exposure – suggesting that consumers avoid all sources of lead exposure, including lead-containing cosmetics. Research has shown that children exposed to lead are at-risk for blood and brain disorders.  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 says, “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 and young children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure, because lead easily crosses the placenta and enters the fetal brain where it can interfere with normal development. 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.”

Millions of women smear on lipstick every morning, after every meal and multiple times throughout any given day. It is commonly suggested that women swallow up to nine pounds of lipstick in their lifetime.  It sounds like a lot, but to even swallow one pound of lipstick, you would have to use 150 sticks – that’s a lot of lipstick.  So, just how much danger are you in?

It is likely that normal, healthy women are not at significant risk; however, the safest recommendation is to use organic, all-natural products. The more we learn about chemicals in our everyday products, the more cautious we must become in our daily lives. Women who are pregnant or may become pregnant or have children that enjoy playing in their make-up should seriously heed these warnings. Lead exposure is extremely dangerous to a developing fetus, babies and young children – even small amounts can impact their health.

The findings of this study will be published in the May/June 2012 issue of the “Journal of Cosmetic Science.”  Representatives from L’Oreal say, “The lead levels detected by the FDA in the study are also within the limits recommended by global public health authorities for cosmetics, including lipstick.” Of course, activists of this campaign retaliate stating that the limits are the problem.  They want to see the FDA establish strict standards and offer more substantial guidelines.


One comment

  1. […] Environmental toxins are making headlines nationwide these days. More and more reports are surfacing that the safe cocoon of the United States is anything, but flawless. Look what is happening to the high school students in Le Roy, New York or the recent coverage the Today show and Good Housekeeping gave toxins lurking in your home’s tap water or the latest FDA report that disclosed the lead contaminating more than 400 popular brands of lipstick. […]

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