A report released yesterday by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC), a coalition of women's, public health, and environmental groups campaigning for
the phasing out of toxins in cosmetics, has suggested that over half of 33 top brands of lipsticks on sale in the US contain detectable levels of
The report said that tests conducted by an independent laboratory during September this year found that 61 per cent of 33 brand-name red lipsticks contained detectable levels of lead ranging from 0.03 to 0.65 parts per million (ppm). The lipsticks were bought in Boston, Hartford, Connecticut, San Francisco and Minneapolis.
One third of the lipsticks tested by the laboratory were found to contain more than the 0.1 ppm limit imposed by the US Food and Drug Administration on candy and sweets. Although the limit for candy was set to protect children from ingesting lead, the CSC is using this comparison to show that lipstick, which is put directly onto the lips, is also a source of directly ingested lead, to which pregnant women for example are particularly vulnerable. But the CSC pointed out that the FDA has not set a limit for lead in lipstick.
The CSC report said 39 per cent of the lipsticks tested had no detectable levels of lead, suggesting it was possible to make them without lead. However, cost does not seem to be a factor, they said, since cheaper brands such as Revlon, selling at 7.49 dollars an item had no detectable levels of lead but the most expensive lipstick they tested, the Dior Addict brand, selling at 24 dollars 50 an item had higher levels than some of the other lipsticks.
The CSC said that the top brands that tested positive for lead in their red lipsticks included:
- L'Oreal Colour Riche "True Red" (lead level of 0.65 ppm),
- L'Oreal Colour Riche "Classic Wine" (0.58 ppm),
- Cover Girl Incredifull Lipcolor "Maximum Red" (0.56 ppm), and
- Dior Addict "Positive Red" (0.21 ppm).
"Lead-containing lipstick applied several times a day, every day, can add up to significant exposure levels."
Stacy Malkan, author of the new book, "Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry", also referred to the build up of toxins like lead in the body, and said the cosmetics industry needs to "clean up its act" and take immediate steps to reformulate products that contain lead.
John Bailey, EVP for Science Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association, said yesterday in a statement responding to the CSC report that despite repeated allegations to the contrary over the years, the cosmetics industry does not add lead to its products; the metal occurs naturally in a range of ingredients, as it does "everywhere in the environment".
He said consumers were exposed to lead every day when they "eat, drink water, and breathe the air".
Bailey pointed out that the average quantity of lead a woman would be exposed to from using cosmetics amounted to 1,000th of the amount she would ingest from eating food, breathing in air and drinking water that met the drinking water standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Referring to the FDA, Bailey said the agency set daily safe levels of lead exposure for adults, children and women who were expecting. And, implying a contradiction to the CSC report, he said the FDA also set limits for lead in the colours used in lipsticks, and also tests them to make sure the limits are obeyed. In fact he also said that the "products identified in the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC) report meet these standards."
Bailey said that for decades the cosmetics industry has worked to "minimize all product contamination, including lead", and they employed some of the world's leading scientists to do this.
The Houston Chronicle reported yesterday that the FDA had no plans to act in response to the CSC report and the agency has been aware of concerns about lead in lipstick for some time.
A pediatrician and assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, Dr Sara Rizvi, who was contacted by the Chronicle said the report's findings were "troubling". However, she said there was no cause for panic since the report was inconclusive and even showed different levels of lead in the same brand.
But Rizvi also went on to say that although more research was needed to establish conclusive evidence one way or the other, the industry should reformulate products to remove lead completely, since this was an avoidable risk.
In high doses lead has been linked to learning and behavioural problems in children, such as reduced IQ, poorer school performance and aggression, said the CSC. The unborn and the very young are especially vulnerable because lead affects early brain development.
Click here for the CSC report on lead in lipstick.
Click here to learn more about lead exposure and toxicity from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Written by: Catharine Paddock