Why is it that whenever films or TV shows portray a senile elderly woman, she always has red lipstick smeared oddly around her mouth? Perhaps these directors unconsiously recognize the inherent dangers of lipstick (either in content or application): last month, a U.S. consumer rights group claimed that more than half of the lipsticks it tested contained lead, according to a Reuters report.
Lipsticks tested by a U.S. consumer rights group found that more than half contained lead and some popular brands including Cover Girl, L'Oreal and Christian Dior had more lead than others...
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics said tests on 33 brand-name red lipsticks by the Bodycote Testing Group in Santa Fe Spring, California, found that 61 percent had detectable lead levels of 0.03 to 0.65 parts per million (ppm).
Lipstick, like candy, is ingested. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition of public health, environmental and women's groups, said the FDA has not set a limit for lead in lipstick.
One-third of the lipsticks tested contained an amount of lead that exceeded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's 0.1 ppm limit for lead in candy -- a standard established to protect children from ingesting lead, the group said. Thirty-nine percent of the lipsticks tested had no discernible lead, it said.
"It's critical that manufacturers reformulate their product," said Stacy Malkan, a co-founder of the coalition. "It's possible to make lipsticks without lead, and all companies should be doing that."
Lead can cause learning, language and behavioral problems such as reduced school performance and increased aggression. Pregnant women and young children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure, the group said in its statement. Lead has also been linked to infertility and miscarriage, it said.
But according to The New York Times this week, the negative publicity is not warranted.
A widely forwarded e-mail message and a recent study have revived fears that some brands of red lipstick contain potentially harmful levels of lead, a well-known neurotoxin.
The e-mail claim has been circulating for some time, but it gained traction last month when a consumer advocacy group published a small independent study of 33 red lipsticks from various brands. The group, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, said tests showed that one-third of the samples contained lead levels greater than 0.1 parts per million — the federal limit for candy.
The group said it chose that comparison because there is no federal standard for lead in cosmetics. But critics of the study say the comparison is misleading, because unlike candy, lipstick is generally not ingested, and any trace amounts ingested accidentally would be harmless.
Stephanie Kwisnek, a spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration, said in an interview that the agency had conducted its own analyses based on past reports and found that such concerns about lipstick were unfounded. She said the agency was currently conducting a review of the latest report.
The list of products that were tested in the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Study, along with the full report, are available online at www.safecosmetics.org.
Good news just in time for the holiday parties. I, however, am going to avoid the brands that did test positive for higher levels of lead.