Lead in Lipstick Report Draws FDA AttentionOct 15, 2007 | Parker Waichman LLP
Red lipstick could be doing more than giving users a pretty pout. New research says that the cosmetic could also be exposing millions of women to high levels of toxic lead. Those surprising findings from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics have now prompted the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to launch an investigation into the lead contained in US-made lipsticks.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics hired an independent lab to test a variety of popular red lipsticks, and announced the results of those tests last week. None of the lipsticks tested had lead listed as an ingredient. But according to the consumer advocacy group, of 33 lipsticks tested, 61% had high lead levels. The lead in these lipsticks ranged from 0.03 parts per million to 0.65 parts per million. According to the organization’s press release, at least a third of the lipsticks tested exceeded the FDA’s 0.1 parts per million limit for lead in candy. The FDA has never set a limit for lead in lipstick even though it is eventually ingested into the body.
According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, cost does not seem to affect the levels of lead in lipsticks. Revlon, at $7.49 per tube one of the least expensive brands tested, contained no detectible lead. Meanwhile, the more expensive Dior Addict brand ($24.50) had a lead level of 0.21 parts per million. Other lipsticks with high lead levels included L’Oreal Colour Riche in “True Red” and “Classic Wine” and Cover Girl Incredifull Lipcolor “Maximum Red”.
Lead is a known neurotoxin, and repeated exposure can cause learning disabilities, language and behavioral problems, lowered IQs and increased aggression. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to lead, because the toxin crosses the placenta and enters the fetal brain. Lead has also been linked to infertility and miscarriage.
Following the release of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics report, the FDA had initially said that it had no plans to investigate the presence of lead in lipstick or any other cosmetic. A spokesperson for the agency had told the Associated Press that the FDA had received other reports of lead in lipstick, but said those were mostly “urban legends”. But later, the FDA said that it would look into the charges raised by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. A spokesperson told the Associated Press that in doing so, the FDA "will need to confirm the factual basis of these reports independently in order to determine what action, if any, may be needed to protect public health."
For its part, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics stands by its findings. The group is calling on the FDA to set limits for lead in all cosmetics, and it has called on lipstick manufacturers to reformulate their lead-containing products.