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Lead in Lipstick: More enduring than love?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

lead in lipstick.jpg
With Valentine's Day right around the corner, there's a lot of puckering up to be done. But if you're not into lead poisoning, we recommend that you go natural. That's right, ditch the lipstick, ladies.

Yeah, we've talked about this before. More than once, I'm sure. The 1979 ban on lead in certain products (house paint and gasoline come to mind) was very successful, dramatically reducing blood lead levels. Good news, right? Restricting lead = less lead poisoning. Simple, even.

So why is there still lead in lipstick, then? Easy: it makes lipstick stay on your lips longer, and the FDA has (once again) not stepped up to the plate. Here's how the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics sums it up:

More than a year after the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics reported that popular brands of lipstick contain lead, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has still not released the results of its own testing of lead in lipstick, despite pressure from senators and repeated calls from health groups.

In Oct. 2007, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics reported that 61% of lipsticks it tested contained lead. In Nov. 2007, Sens. John Kerry, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein urged FDA to test a range of lipsticks for lead, publicly report the results, and take immediate action to reduce consumers' exposure to lead from cosmetic products.

Fourteen months later, FDA has made no public statements, issued no reports, and taken no action to reduce consumers' exposure.

Why am I not surprised?

What you can do. As always, there's the personal and the political. To prevent your own exposure, you should use lead-free lipstick or no lipstick at all. Because lead is not a listed ingredient, it is impossible to identify lead-free brands without testing. Going without is safer.

To get political, you can ask the FDA to step up to the plate and ban lead in lipstick. You can also contact the folks who make your favorite lipstick and let them know that you like their product - but would prefer it without a dose of lead, please and thank you.

For more on the useful properties of lead, the 2007 New York Times article, "The Pernicious Allure of Lead" is fascinating - showing the poisonous metal's unbeatable usefulness over time.