It’s just in the last 100 years that we have learned the dangers of lead toxicity and have taken steps to reduce and limit the amount of lead in our daily use.
Apparently, the cosmetic manufacturers didn’t get that memo.
Lead is an element that is used in a wide variety of products. We wouldn’t have batteries without it. We use it to protect ourselves from radiation when we are x-rayed. And we used to fill up our gas tanks with it. That is…until the government banned it because of health concerns.
Lead is a heavy metal that, when ingested, accumulates in your body’s tissues and stays there for the rest of your life. Even low levels of lead exposure can have serious effects. Exposed children are at the greatest risk. Lead collects in the developing brain causing visual-motor problems, lowered intelligence and possibly psychiatric issues like schizophrenia. Often the source of the lead is ingestion of chipped paint from older homes, but sometime the source is unknown. Lead in older folks can lead to health problems like severe high blood pressure, kidney disease and dementia.
And lead crosses the placenta to harm a developing baby, and is found in breast milk.
Turns out, a source of lead could be coming from your cosmetic bag. Of the lipsticks tested by the FDA, all of them contained some level of lead. Lead does not have to be listed on the ingredients because it is often contained in the colorant or other ingredients used in the product. Because of this, the FDA has no limits on the amount of lead that lipstick can contain…it only has limits on lead contained in the colorants. However, if a company chooses to use several colorants, or a very high level of colorant mixed with other lead containing ingredients, the lead levels can skyrocket.
Again, the FDA does not presently have a policy on lead levels in cosmetics.
Some other sources of lead in cosmetics are:
- titanium dioxide
- petroleum based ingredients such as mineral oil and petrolatum
According to the FDA color additives can have no more than 20 ppm of lead. Candy can have 0.1 ppm of lead. (The FDA does regulate lead in candy.) The FDA states that because the lipstick colorant is not “ingested” it does not have to have the same level of restrictions as candy.
Just last month, Jan 2012, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) released a statement lowering the limit on lead exposure for children. With the lower levels in place, it means that over 450,000 children have lead in their bloodstream that exceed the healthy limit. “The science has been indicating for some time that there may be no safe limit of lead for children—who are more vulnerable to it’s toxicity,” said Urvashi Rangan, Director of Consumer Safety and Sustainability at Consumer Reports.
This makes me think of three things:
- all the little girls who “try out” Mom’s lipstick on their lips…and teeth.
- and all the women who wear lipstick all day every day with multiple applications….on their mouth.
- All the pregnant women who wear lipstick every day.
Deep reds seem to contain more lead. You can see if your brand of lipstick appears on the FDA’s testing chart here
Because of pressure by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, the FDA is re-examining it’s stance on lead in lipstick. In December 2011 they stated:
Although we do not believe that the lead content found in our recent lipstick analyses poses a safety concern, we are evaluating whether there may be a need to recommend an upper limit for lead in lipstick in order to further protect the health and welfare of consumers.
In the meantime, you can use lipsticks that do not use artificial colorants, titanium dioxide, petroleum products, or ozokerite. But be careful of the word “natural”. Even Burt’s Bees lip color had a small amount of lead. Choose companies that make lead-free lipsticks like Eco Bella, and Lavera.
Or you could just opt for a shiny lip moisture from MOON.
Either way, you can take the lead, and be a leader in the fight against lead!
Please note: pregnant women should know what their tap water lead level is. You can go here to look up your local tap water report. If the level is high, you may want to consider bottled water during pregnancy.
Interesting fact: Women that took 1200 mg Calcium/day had lower blood levels of lead than those who were calcium deficient. It seems the lead is stored in your bones. When you are deficient in Calcium, your bones leech it into your blood. Lead follows calcium in the leeching process. Another good reason to get enough Calcium intake!
Sign a petition to L’Oreal, the worst lead offender