FDA Study: Lead Levels in Lipstick Much Higher than Previously Reported
FDA won’t say which brands had most lead; still has no standard for lead in lipstick
San Francisco – A new study by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has found lead in lipstick at levels much higher than those detected by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC) in a 2007 study that received international attention.
FDA found lead in all 20 lipsticks it tested, at levels ranging from 0.09 parts per million (ppm) to 3.06 ppm – more than four times higher than the highest lead level of 0.65 reported in the 2007 CSC study. FDA used a new testing method to analyze lipstick and concluded that earlier methods likely underestimated the amount of lead in lipstick.
FDA noted that three manufacturers had the highest levels of lead, but they did not name those brands. In 2007, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics report also found that a few brands had consistently higher lead levels, including L’Oreal, Maybelline and Cover Girl.
Health experts say lead in lipstick is a health concern in any amount.
“Since recent science suggests that there is truly no safe lead exposure for children and pregnant women, it is disturbing that manufacturers are allowed to continue to sell lead-containing lipsticks," said Sean Palfrey, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and public health at Boston University and the medical director of Boston's Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.
“Lead is a proven neurotoxin that can cause learning, language and behavioral problems such as lowered IQ, reduced school performance and increased aggression. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure, because lead easily crosses the placenta and enters the fetal brain where it can interfere with normal development,” said Dr. Palfrey.
“Lead builds up in the body over time and lead-containing lipstick applied several times a day, every day, can add up to significant exposure levels,” said Mark Mitchell, M.D., MPH, president of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states: “No safe blood lead level has been identified.” The agency suggests avoiding all sources of lead exposure.
Yet FDA has no standard for lead in lipstick. “Pregnant women using lipstick are unknowingly exposing their fetuses to unknown and unregulated levels of lead. FDA should immediately set standards to require manufacturers to make lipstick as safe as possible,” said Lisa Archer, national coordinator for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics at the Breast Cancer Fund.
The FDA study found an average level of lead in lipsticks of 1.07 ppm – more than 10 times higher than its own standard for lead in candy. FDA’s standard for candy is based on the lowest lead level that can be achieved. A similar standard should be applied to lipstick.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics also urged FDA to release the names of the brands tested in the study and lead levels found in each. “The public deserves to know which lipsticks contain the most lead. FDA used taxpayer money to conduct this study and the results should be fully and readily available to the public,” Archer said.
Sens. Kerry, Feinstein and Boxer demanded that FDA take action on lead in lipstick, following the release of the CSC report. Nearly two years later, the FDA study was released in the July/August issue of the Journal of Cosmetic Science, and made available at a cost of $35.
Founding members of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics include Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, Breast Cancer Fund, Clean Water Fund, Commonweal, Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, National Black Environmental Justice Network, National Environmental Trust and Women's Voices for the Earth. www.SafeCosmetics.org
Additional Resources for Reporters
Correspondence with FDA
Letter to FDA from Sens. Kerry, Boxer, Feinstein
Science of lead in lipstick
Frequently asked questions about lead in lipstick