Lead in Lipstick gets Congressional Attention, Sparks Criticism of FDANov 23, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP
Lead in lipstick is has attracted the attention of some powerful law makers. Former presidential candidate Senator John Kerry-along with senators Barbara Boxter and Dianne Feinstein-is leading an attack on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) accusing them of oversight and criticizing them for failing to respond to the potential health hazard of this toxic substance in lipsticks. The issue of lead in lipsticks made news following the Campaign for Safe Cosmetic's (CSC) recently published research claiming that many popular lipsticks contain unacceptably high lead levels. The FDA promised to investigate lead content in the lipsticks tested by the CSC; however, the senators consider the move insufficient and are demanding the FDA perform and publicly publish test results on a wide range of brands in a variety of colors. If results are similar to what the CSC revealed, they want the FDA to take action to reduce consumer exposure to lead and establish maximum standards for lipstick and other cosmetics.
Lead is known to cause cancer and reproductive harm and can cause mental and physical retardation and behavioral and other health problems in children. In adults, lead can damage the nervous system. Recent studies indicate that no level of lead is safe. The FDA does not set a limit for lead in lipstick, but argues their regulations cover lead levels in lipstick coloring.
The senators have stated that this recent revelation of unsafe lead levels in lipstick is the latest reminder of the FDA's insufficient safeguards. They feel that toxic chemicals do not belong in products people are exposed to daily and the FDA should be doing all in its power to remove lead-tainted products from the marketplace. Cosmetics trade associations insist the lead in lipsticks is negligible and poses no health risk to consumers, claiming the average amount of lead a woman would be exposed to when using cosmetics is 1,000 times less than the amount taking in from drinking water that meets Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.
According to the CSC, one-third of red lipsticks tested by an independent lab exceeded the FDA's limit for lead in candy-0.1 parts per million (ppm)-a standard established to protect children from directly ingesting lead. Pregnant women and young children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure. In its initial report, the CSC argued that the FDA has set a 0.1 ppm limit on lead in candy, while it had found as much as 0.65 ppm of lead in lipsticks. Some feel it is unfair to make a direct comparison between lead levels in food and lipstick, that the amount of lipstick one ingests normally is much smaller than if consumed; however, lead builds up in the body over time and others feel that lead-containing lipstick, applied several times a day, every day, can add up to significant exposure levels.
The FDA said it is aware of concerns about lead in lipstick and is following up on the report, saying the concerns have not generally been supported by FDA's own analysis of products on the market, but they are looking into the specific details of the issues raised.