Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Poison Kiss

It is not just toys from China that contain lead, but lipsticks made in the USA.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has come out with a report called, "A Poison Kiss: The Problem with Lead in Lipstick." It turns out that 61% of named brand lipsticks contain detectable amounts of lead and 1/3 of lipsticks exceed the amount of lead the FDA allows for candy. Like candy, lipstick can be ingested, one study found that in a woman's lifetime she may inadvertently ingest 4 pounds of lipstick. Among the top brands testing positive for lead were:

• L’Oreal Colour Riche “True Red” – 0.65 ppm
• L’Oreal Colour Riche “Classic Wine” – 0.58 ppm
• Cover Girl Incredifull Lipcolor “Maximum Red” – 0.56 ppm
• Christian Dior Addict “Positive Red” – 0.21 ppm

Younger and younger girls are using lipstick. A 2004 survey of cosmetics use by 5,856 U.S. girls aged 7 to 19 found that 63 percent of the girls aged 10 and younger reported using lipstick. This means that females will have a longer lifetime of use and exposure to lead than a generation before. Given that lead is a neurotoxin that has been linked to learning, language and behavioral problems such as lowered IQ, impulsiveness, reduced school performance, increased aggression, seizures and brain damage, anemia, and, after long exposure, damage to the kidneys, we need to make sure we force companies to take lead out of lipsticks. Lead has also been linked to effecting hormones, fertility, and delay of menstruation, it is important to deal with this lead problem.

There are lipsticks that do not have any detectable levels of lead, so it is possible and necessary to make sure that lead is removed from cosmetic ingredients. It is good to hear that the FDA is looking to investigate these findings, it remains to be seen if they come down on the side of consumers or bow to the cosmetics industry.

Industry groups have long claimed that lead exposure is an unavoidable byproduct, is no more than any other environmental sources and that they are within what the FDA and California's Prop 65 limits for lead. The problem is that exposure is cumulative as it stays in the system and builds up over time. Women wear make up 7 days a week all day, and can spread to people they have contact with -- significant others, husbands, relatives, and kids. While it is true that there are other sources of lead in our environment that makes it even more important to reduce exposures as much as possible.


Despite continuous allegations over the years, lead is not intentionally added to cosmetics. Lead is a naturally occurring element that is found everywhere in the environment. Consumers are exposed daily to lead when they eat, drink water and breathe the air. The average amount of lead a woman would be exposed to when using cosmetics is 1,000 times less than the amount she would get from eating, breathing, and drinking water that meets Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking water standards.

“The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set daily safe levels for lead exposure for adults, children and pregnant women. The agency also has set strict limits for lead levels allowed in the colors used in lipsticks, and actually analyze most of these to ensure they are followed. The products identified in the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC) report meet these standards. In fact, all the products tested in the CSC report meet the California standards for safety established under their Prop 65 process.

“Despite the negligible levels of lead found in some lipsticks, cosmetic companies are committed to reducing that level even further. For decades, cosmetic companies have worked to minimize all product contamination, including lead. They actively and continually review all raw materials to ensure that they contain the lowest levels of impurities possible. Cosmetic companies have some of the world’s leading chemists, toxicologists, and biologists to evaluate all the safety information.”

I have long supported FDA regulation of the cosmetics industry based on the precautionary principle not just in regards to lead, but a whole host of chemicals that have been found to be toxins or carcinogens. Congress and the next president (since Bush is hopelessly anti-consumer) need to create a fully funded and mandated FDA who will be more concerned about consumer health than industry profits. Both the EPA and the FDA are not stringent enough in protecting us from products sold in the US and contaminants found in the air and water. As many of the news stories of recalls of various products show, we cannot rely on industry or government to protect us and our children. It is time for consumers to put pressure on government to crack down on industry in regards to product safety.

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