400 shades of lipstick found to contain lead, FDA says

The Washington Post

February 14, 2012

The FDA, which hired a private laboratory to do the testing, selected lipsticks based on the parent company’s market share, although it also included a few brands from niche markets.

“We do not consider the lead levels we found in the lipsticks to be a safety concern,” the FDA said in its online comments. “The lead levels we found are within the limits recommended by other public health authorities for lead in cosmetics.”

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has a different take on the results.

The lead content in Maybelline’s Pink Petal is more than twice as high as levels found in the previous FDA report and more than 275 times the level found in the least-contaminated product in the recent report, the group wrote in a letter to the agency this month.

The least-contaminated product — Wet ’n’ Wild Mega Mixers Lip Balm — was also the least expensive, the group said in a separate statement, “demonstrating that price is not an indicator of good manufacturing practices.”

The group cited federal research that concluded that there’s no safe level of lead exposure for children, and experts stressed the need to shield children and pregnant women from exposure.

“Lead builds in the body over time, and lead-containing lipstick applied several times a day, every day, can add up to significant exposure levels,” Mark Mitchell, co-chairman of the Environmental Health Task Force for the National Medical Association, said in the group’s statement.

California, a trailblazer when it comes to lead regulation, has grappled with this issue.

In 2008, after reports on lead in lipsticks resurfaced, the state attorney general’s office examined whether cosmetics firms had run afoul of a California law that requires businesses to provide a reasonable warning if they knowingly expose consumers to chemicals that can cause cancer or reproductive harm.

The state concluded, based on public data, that the concentration of lead in lipsticks was too low to trigger the law. The duty to warn consumers would not arise until the lead concentration reached five parts per million, the state said.

In the FDA’s study, the overwhelming majority of the lipsticks fell below that threshold. But two exceeded it — Maybelline’s Pink Petal and L’Oreal’s Colour Riche Volcanic. The California attorney general’s office has taken no further action.

Lead in lipsticks: Which brands are the worst offenders? See the full list here.