Is lead hiding in your lipstick?
Public pressure marks a triumph. On September 5, 2013, Procter and Gamble, the multi-national, multi-billon-dollar maker of Cover Girl, Always, Pantene, Herbal Essences, Olay, Tide, Crest, and Ivory, among other brands, finally announced a ban on two nasty toxins used to make plastics more flexible and fragrances more eternal. Some of the synthetic scents that linger in elevators and restrooms will have to get reformulated by 2014.
“The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics congratulates P&G for taking bold and globally-significant action to protect the health of its 4.8 billion consumers by eliminating two dangerous toxic chemicals—triclosan (link to my triclosan piece) and DEP—from all its products,” says Janet Nudelman, co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and Director of Program and Policy at Breast Cancer Fund.
Considering the mind-boggling array of products produced by the consumer products giant, and the stakes involved in ensuring that their brands continue to dominate the market, chemists should also take another step to analyze the onslaught of chemicals across the entire personal care industry.
Our question: Will the elimination of two toxins make their products safe?
Bionsen, a British natural deodorant company, reported in November 2009 that women in the UK wear approximately 515 different chemicals on their bodies each day. These chemicals accumulate from the use of lotions, moisturizers, foundation, hair sprays, lipsticks, blush, fake tanning creams, and perfume, among other toiletries.
The vast majority of the 2016 women polled were not concerned and only 10 percent routinely shop for chemical-free products.
Many Americans share the same responses. When The Environmental Working Group (EWG) reported in 2008 that teenage girls are exposed to a Molotov cocktail of chemicals from cosmetics and body products that interfere with puberty, the story slipped away from national headlines, allowing many of those toxic ingredients to continue to pop up in mainstream cosmetic products, notably parabens in perfume and lead in lipstick.
No stranger to the lipstick issue, the FDA has been conducting follow-up studies ever since it concluded that every one of the 20 brands it tested in 2007 contained levels of lead. Studies conducted in 2009 and 2012 found an increasing amount of lead—as much as 7.19 parts per million. Of the 400 lipsticks sampled in 2012, Maybelline topped the list as the maker of the most lead-laden lipstick. L’Oreal took silver, NARS bronze, and Cover Girl got a notable mention in fourth place.
While the FDA remains remarkably tongue-tied about the hazards of lead in lipstick, government agencies elsewhere are outspoken. As reported in an advisory notice from the FDA in the Philippines, where knock-off lipsticks from China allegedly vex health officials across the country:
“Lead is a proven toxicant that accumulates in the body through constant exposure and absorption over a prolonged period. Health problems through chronic ingestion of high level of lead in lipsticks may manifest as neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal problems.”