(Washington, DC) — A new analysis of lead in lipstick conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reveals that the problem of lead in lipstick is worse and more widespread than previously reported. The new study found lead in 400 lipsticks tested by the agency, at widely varying levels of up to 7.19 parts per million (ppm) — more than twice the levels reported in a previous FDA study. Five of the 10 most lead-contaminated brands in the FDA study are made by L’Oreal USA. See the brands FDA tested here.
The results: 61 percent of lipsticks contained lead, with levels ranging up to 0.65 parts per million. Lead-contaminated brands included L’Oreal, Cover Girl and even a $24 tube of Dior Addict. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration promised it would conduct an investigation, but dragged its feet in doing so.
It took nearly two years, pressure from consumers and a letter from three U.S. Senators, but in 2009 the FDA released a follow-up study that found lead in all samples of lipstick it tested, at levels ranging from 0.09 to 3.06 ppm – levels four times higher than the levels found in the Campaign study. FDA found the highest lead levels in lipsticks made by three manufacturers: Procter & Gamble (Cover Girl brand), L’Oreal (L’Oreal, Body Shop and Maybelline brands) and Revlon. Yet FDA has thus far failed to take action to protect consumers.
No Safe Dose
The recent science indicates there is no safe level of lead exposure. In January, an advisory committee to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new report asserting that there is no safe level of lead for children, and stressing the importance of preventing lead exposure for children and pregnant women.
“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, policy advisor of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice and co-chair of the Environmental Health Task Force for the National Medical Association.
“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 and young children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure, because lead easily crosses the placenta and enters the fetal brain where it can interfere with normal development,” according to Sean Palfrey, MD, a professor of pediatrics and public health at Boston University and the medical director of Boston’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. “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.”.
The FDA study of 400 lipsticks was quietly posted on the agency’s website in December.
The most contaminated brand in the study, Maybelline Color Sensation by L’Oreal USA, contained more than 275 times the amount of lead found in the least contaminated, and least expensive, brand, Wet & Wild Mega Mixers Lip Balm — demonstrating that price is not an indicator of good manufacturing practices.
“How many millions of women have applied and reapplied lead-containing lipsticks since we first raised concerns about this problem five years ago? How many kids have played with their mom’s lipstick?” said Janet Nudelman, interim director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and policy director at the Breast Cancer Fund. “It’s time for L’Oreal to get the lead out of its products, and for FDA to set a safety standard for lead in lipstick.”
The FDA said it is currently evaluating whether to recommend an upper limit for lead in lipstick. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is urging FDA to set a maximum limit for lead in lipstick based on the lowest lead levels cosmetic manufacturers can feasibly achieve. U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer, John Kerry and Dianne Feinstein have also urged FDA to take action to reduce lead in lipstick.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is also calling on L’Oreal to make a public commitment to reformulate its lipsticks to ensure the lowest possible levels of lead. L’Oreal makes five of the 10 most lead-contaminated brands in the FDA study.
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, including lead-containing cosmetics. (Read CDC’s lead exposure prevention tips)
The Campaign continues to pressure the FDA to set a maximum limit of lead in lipstick, based on the lowest lead levels manufacturers can feasibly achieve. Thus far the agency has failed to take action to protect consumers.
A state bill to ban lead from lipstick passed the California Senate in 2008, but died after a massive industry lobby effort
What You Can Do to reduce the Lead
Because lead is a contaminant not listed on lipstick ingredient labels, it’s next to impossible for consumers to avoid. But don’t let that dissuade you from doing something
Resources for reporters
400 lipsticks tested by FDA: http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductandIngredientSafety/ProductInformation/ucm137224.htm#expanalyses
Senators urge FDA to take action to reduce lead in lipstick: http://safecosmetics.org/downloads/Kerry-Boxer-Feinstein_letter-to-FDA-lipstick.pdf
January 2012 advisory panel report to US Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/ACCLPP/Final_Document_010412.pdf