Study: Heavy Metals, Carcinogens Found in Lipstick, Lip Gloss

public_healthwatchdog_blogimage_05-06-2013_Lipsticks-Toxic_MetalsA recent study reveals that a wide array of popular lipsticks and lip glosses contain some dangerous heavy metals, including lead and cadmium.

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of California-Berkeley School of Public Health, said USA Today. The team 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.

This is not the first time research has found lead in lipstick. In December 2011, a survey of 400 lipstick varieties conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed low lead levels that the agency said posed no safety concerns.

As we’ve long explained, lead can accumulate in the body over time and 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.

This study analyzed a number of metals, estimating health risks based on concentrations and typical lipstick use, said USA Today. “Just finding these metals isn’t the issue. It’s the levels that matter,” said co-author S. Katharine Hammond, professor of environmental health. According to Hammond, some of toxic metals found in the lipsticks and lip glosses tested are occurring at levels that could present health problems over time. “This study is saying, ‘FDA, wake up and pay attention,'” she said.

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. Health effects have to do with how often and heavily the product is applied, said USA Today. Average lipstick users apply lipstick 2.3 times each day, ingesting 24 milligrams every day; heavy lipstick uses may apply lipstick about 14 times daily, ingesting 83 milligrams, according to the study.

The study found that, for even average use, some lipsticks could lead to excessive chromium exposure, said USA Today. Chromium is a carcinogen linked to stomach tumors. Meanwhile, high lipstick use could lead to over-exposure to the heavy metals aluminum, cadmium, manganese. Lead was found in 24 of the products tested.

If you use lipstick “several times every day, you may want to think about it ….Use it less,” Hammond recommends, said USA Today. Hammond says more research is needed given that there are no U.S. standards for metal content in cosmetics. USA Today pointed out that the European Union considers cadmium, chromium, and lead as unacceptable ingredients in any amount in cosmetic products

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