Leaded lipstick: How much is too much?

Lead is in many lipsticks. But is that okay?

Yesterday, the national Campaign for Safe Cosmetics highlighted an analysis of lead in lipsticks done for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The study found lead in all 400 lipsticks tested, with levels of up to 7.19 parts per billion.

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Safe Cosmetics says this is more than twice the levels reported in a previous FDA study, and it has concerns. 

A press release issued by Safe Cosmetics quoted 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, who said, “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.”

In addition, “lead is a proven neurotoxin that can cause learning, language and behavioral problems. 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 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, as quoted in the press release.

The FDA maintains that "our results do not show levels of lead in lipstick that would pose a safety concern." However, the agency said on its website, "Although we do not believe that the lead content found in our recent lipstick analyses poses a safety concern, we are evaluating whether there may be a need to recommend an upper limit for lead in lipstick in order to further protect the health and welfare of consumers."

Click here for the FDA's Q&A page on lipstick and lead.

The data show that the brand in the study with the most lead was Maybelline Color Sensation by L’Oreal USA.  It contained more than 275 times the amount of lead found in the least contaminated, and least expensive, brand, Wet & Wild Mega Mixers Lip Balm, Safe Cosmetics pointed out.