RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Internet rumors about lead in lipstick have existed—and been dismissed—for years, but recent research is finding that the rumors may in fact have some truth to them. In 2007, a group called the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC) published a report for which they tested 33 brand-name lipsticks and found lead in 61 percent. Shortly afterward, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said they'd look into the problem. Nearly three years later, the agency has quietly published a study in an industry trade journal in which they found lead in every sample of lipstick tested, in some cases nearly five times higher than what the CSC found in its 2007 report.
THE DETAILS: The FDA study was published in the July/August issue of the Journal of Cosmetic Science, a trade journal that isn't easily accessible to the general public. It was intended to highlight the effectiveness of a new lead-testing tool, not to reveal the quantities of lead in lipstick. For its study, the agency tested 22 lipsticks (the exact brand names and manufacturers have not been disclosed) and found lead in every sample. Levels ranged from 0.9 parts per million (ppm) to 3.06 ppm, with an average of 1.07 ppm; for comparison's sake, the FDA sets a maximum limit of 2 ppm in food, but it allows up to 20 ppm in cosmetic colorants, the only cosmetic ingredient the agency regulates. When the CSC tested lipsticks in 2007, it was using older technology and found levels ranging from 0.03 ppm to 0.65 ppm. "Because the FDA's new testing equipment is so sensitive, the agency has said that earlier methods may have underestimated the amount of lead in products," says Stacy Malkan, cofounder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a national coalition that works to eliminate hazardous chemicals from personal-care products, and author of Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry (New Society Publishers, 2007).