Levels up to twice as high as previously reported; L’Oreal worst offender

(Washington, DC) — A new analysis of lead in lipstick conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reveals that the problem of lead in lipstick is worse and more widespread than previously reported. The new study  found lead in  400 lipsticks tested by the agency, at widely varying levels of up to 7.19 parts per million (ppm) — more than twice the levels reported in a previous FDA study.

Yesterday, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics sent FDA a letter asking them to correct misleading statements on their website about the supposed safety of lead in lipstick: The agency has studied only the levels of lead in lipstick, and has conducted no health studies or safety assessments.

In January, an advisory committee to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a new report asserting that there is no safe level of lead for children, and stressing the importance of preventing lead exposure for children and pregnant women.

“Lead builds up in the body over time and lead-containing lipstick applied several times a day, every day, can add up to significant exposure levels,” said Mark Mitchell, M.D., MPH, policy advisor of the Connecticut Coalition for Environmental Justice and co-chair of the Environmental Health Task Force for the National Medical Association.

“Lead is a proven neurotoxin that can cause learning, language and behavioral problems. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure, because lead easily crosses the placenta and enters the fetal brain where it can interfere with normal development,” said Sean Palfrey, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and public health atBoston University and the medical director of Boston’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.

The FDA study of 400 lipsticks was quietly posted on the agency’s website in December. The most contaminated brand in the study, Maybelline Color Sensation by L’Oreal USA, contained more than 275 times the amount of lead found in the least contaminated, and least expensive, brand, Wet & Wild Mega Mixers Lip Balm — demonstrating that price is not an indicator of good manufacturing practices.

“How many millions of women have applied and reapplied lead-containing lipsticks since we first raised concerns about this problem five years ago? How many kids have played with their mom’s lipstick?” said Janet Nudelman, interim director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and policy director at the Breast Cancer Fund. “It’s time for L’Oreal to get the lead out of its products, and for FDA to set a safety standard for lead in lipstick.”

The FDA said it is currently evaluating whether to recommend an upper limit for lead in lipstick. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is urging FDA to set a maximum limit for lead in lipstick based on the lowest lead levels cosmetic manufacturers can feasibly achieve. U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer, John Kerry and Dianne Feinstein have also urged FDA to take action to reduce lead in lipstick.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is also calling on L’Oreal to make a public commitment to reformulate its lipsticks to ensure the lowest possible levels of lead. L’Oreal makes five of the 10 most lead-contaminated brands in the FDA study.

Resources for reporters

Campaign for Safe Cosmetics letter to FDA:

400 lipsticks tested by FDA:

Senators urge FDA to take action to reduce lead in lipstick

January 2012 advisory panel report to US Centers for Disease Control: