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October 13, 2007

Lead in Lipstick

This lead in lipstick story has raised it's ugly head again. Please people, the levels of lead in lipstick are nothing at all to worry about. The story has been set off by a pressure group which includes about half of the cosmetics industry. They're using the story of lead in lipstick to do the dirty on the other half of the industry.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics said that a third of the 33 red lipsticks examined by an independent lab contained a level of lead exceeding 0.1 parts per million — which is the FDA's limit for lead in candy. The FDA does not set a limit for lead in lipstick.

The organization commissioning the lipstick study says its goal is to pressure companies to remove toxic chemicals from their products and replace them with safer alternatives. The lead tests were conducted by an independent laboratory last month on red lipsticks bought in Boston, San Francisco, Minneapolis and Hartford, Conn., the organization said.

See that limit? 0.1 parts per million? That's around the limit of detection with the usual sort of systems a that are used. (There are more advanced and expensive analysis methods possible but they are much more expensive). For every 10 million atoms, there's one of them that is lead, which isn't when you think about it, very much.

Further, who actually eats lipstick like it's candy? From observing my wife a lipstick lasts some weeks at least, while candy gets eaten in vastly larger quantities than that. As lead is a cumulative poison, the actual dosage (and remember, the dose is the poison) from lipstick will be miniscule.

Oh, and have a look at the EPA guidelines on lead in drinking water. 15 parts per billion. Our 0.1 parts per million is 100 parts per billion. So, err, lipstick, which we ingest a few grammes a day of, tops, has nearly 7 times the lead content of water, which we all drink by the gallon. Which do youthink is contributing more to your total dosage of lead?

No, this is simply a story by one group of manufacturers to get us to stop buying the goods of another group of manufacturers. It's not a health scare, it's a sales technique.

The lead in lipstick story from UPI:

And how CBS reported the story:

October 13, 2007 in Environmentalism | Permalink


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There is however a great deal of truth in the story. The origin of the heavy metals (of which lead is only one .. Cadmium, Silver, nickel are others) is in the beeswax used a a base.

Increasingly the bees that forage in the developed world are collecting aerial pollutants and which are concentrated in the wax.

As a result the beeswax from African countries with low levels of industrialisation commands a premium price ... Zambia is a speciality producer as is Tanzania - Brylcreem used to buy half the Tanzanian crop!

Just as the heavy metals are accumulated in the beeswax they accumulate in the human, whilst the daily ingestion is modest, repated use over years can have a demonstrable effect.

There have been several studies at looking at beeswax as an bioindicator of pollution .. I know of studies in Central Rome.

Posted by: Edward Teague | Oct 13, 2007 1:10:31 PM