A report issued earlier this month by the Campaign for Safer Cosmetics found that some popular brands of women’s lipstick contain lead, a known neurotoxin. And no, this time the stuff’s made in the good ole U.S. of A. According to a press release that accompanied the report, the lead tests were conducted by an independent laboratory in September on red lipsticks bought in Boston, Hartford, Conn., San Francisco and Minneapolis.
The group tested 33 brand name lipsticks and found that 61 percent tested positive for detectable levels of lead. Levels ranged from 0.03 to 0.65 part per million (ppm) and yet, surprisingly, none of the lipsticks listed lead as an ingredient. Wonder why. One-third of the lipsticks exceeded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 0.1 ppm limit for lead in candy – a standard established to protect children from directly ingesting lead. Lipstick products, like candy, are directly ingested into the body.
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
-Dior Addict “Positive Red” – 0.21 ppm
Lead is a proven neurotoxin. It can cause learning, language and behavioral problems such as lowered IQ, reduced school performance and increased aggression in children, according to CSC. Pregnant women and young children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure. It easily crosses the placenta and enters the fetal brain where it can interfere with normal development. Lead has also been linked to infertility and miscarriage.
Lead builds up over time in the body, which is of particular concern when it comes to lipstick. “Lead-containing lipstick applied several times a day, every day, can add up to significant exposure levels,” says Mark Mitchell, M.D., MPH, president, Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice.
One might ask, how the hell does lead end up in lipstick anyhow? CSC says there are two possible ways. Colorants used in lipstick may contain lead, or lead may be introduced as a by-product from ingredients mined or obtained from other raw materials, which can include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, or from materials such as ozokerite (mineral wax or paraffin) and petroleum-based ingredients (petrolatum, mineral oil).
Although the group found 39 percent of the lipsticks they tested had no detectable levels of lead, there is no way for consumers to know which ones are safe. Cost isn’t the issue: Revlon’s $7.50 lipstick tested lead-free while Dior Addict’s lipstick that cost $24.50 tested positive. “The bottom line is that we can’t shop our way out of this problem,” says the press release . “We need to change the laws so that consumers are protected from toxic ingredients in cosmetics.”
This is a drag. I think my friend Helen who tipped me off to this issue, said it best: “Lipstick was the last bastion of feel-good, easy luxury available to mothers and now that’s gone, too! Damn it all……….”