Another study has found that many lipsticks and lip glosses contain dangerous heavy metal, and at least every lipstick contains lead.
This new study revealed that many brands of lipstick can contain as many as eight other metals, according to The New York Times. With some people touching up their lipstick upwards of 20 times each day, the exposure implications are concerning. In addition to lead, many of the lipsticks were also found to contain cadmium and aluminum.
Experts are trying to understand the health consequences when lipstick is swallowed or otherwise ingested on an ongoing basis. “It matters because this is a chronic long-term issue, not a short-term exposure,” Katharine Hammond, professor of environmental health sciences at the University of California at Berkeley and the study’s lead author, told the Times. “We’re not saying that anyone needs to panic. We’re saying let’s not be complacent, that these are metals known to affect health.”
A 2007 report entitled “A Poison Kiss,” by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics brought attention to the matter and was followed up in 2011 by a broad U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) follow-up that found lead in 400 lipstick brands, according to the Times.
Although industry maintains that the metals are being seen in what they describe as small amounts, Dr. Sean Palfrey, medical director of the lead poisoning prevention program at Boston University Medical Center, points out that lead accumulates in the body, according to the Times. The FDA has set 0.1 parts per million (ppm) as the safety standard in lead in candy for children. “Not to mention that the CDC. acknowledged last year that no level of lead is really safe,” Dr. Palfrey told the Times.
Dr. Hammond’s study, published in the May issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, detected cadmium, cobalt, aluminum, titanium, manganese, chromium, copper, and nickel in 24 brands of lip gloss and eight brands of lipstick, the Times wrote. The products were chosen because they were popular with teens at a community health center in Oakland, California. The girls there said they re-applied the products about 24 times daily.
The prior study, conducted by researchers at the University of California-Berkeley School of Public Health tested 32 lipsticks and lip glosses and discovered lead, cadmium, chromium, and aluminum, as well as five other metals, some at what the researchers described as toxic levels. In December 2011, a survey of 400 lipstick varieties conducted by the FDA revealed low lead levels that the agency said posed no safety concerns.
As we’ve long explained, pregnant women, infants, and young children, especially, should avoid exposure to lead. Lead exposure in children and unborn children can lead to brain and nervous system damage; slowed growth; headaches; mental and physical retardation; and behavioral, learning, hearing, and other health problems. The developing brain is of particular concern because lead exposure can have long-lasting effects that can continue well into puberty and beyond. Lead is also known to cause cancer and reproductive harm and, in adults, can damage the nervous system. Once poisoned, no organ system is immune. Many experts feel that there is no safe level of lead exposure.
Cadmium has also been linked to a number of dangerous health effects. In fact, we recently wrote that researchers found that low-level cadmium exposure is linked to hearing loss. Cadmium has also been linked to breast cancer and can interfere with brain development in very young children and can lead to kidney, bone, lung, and liver disease. Once in the body, cadmium can remain for decades. Should sufficient cadmium accumulate in the body, it can degrade the kidneys and bones, and can cause cancer.
If the lip products are not blotted off on a tissue or napkin or not left as kiss marks, they are either ingested or absorbed by the wearer.