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Some red lipsticks may contain lead

Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner

Red lipsticks from several popular cosmetic brands may contain hazardous levels of lead, say groups like Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, who is pushing for federal regulations of cosmetic ingredients by the Food and Drug Administration.

Campaign for Safe Cosmetics investigated and found potentially dangerous ingredients in many major lipstick brands, especially the lead content.

According to Yahoo! Health, lead poisoning can cause health problems in all ages. Adult women face symptoms including infertility and hormonal changes. Pregnant women face a much higher risk of miscarriages and development problems can occur in young and early adolescents. Lead poisoning can happen with 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood.

According to the results of the campaign’s investigation, which were released on Oct. 11 of this year, many popular brands, including L’Oreal and Cover Girl, contain as much as sixty-five times the amount of lead the FDA allows in candy.

The FDA allows the trace amount of 0.1 parts per million (ppm), which means that they only allow candy to have a ratio of one particle of lead for every ten million particles of other compounds.

After different members of Campaign for Safe Cosmetics randomly selected tubes of lipstick from cities across the country, including San Francisco, they found that the two lipsticks with the highest lead contents were both manufactured by L’Oreal.

The number one spot for highest lead content was given to a tube of L’Oreal’s “Colour Riche True Red,” which had sixty-five ppm. The number two, also L’Oreal, was the “Color Riche Classic Wine,” which had fifty-eight ppm.

The third most contaminated was Cover Girl’s “Incredifull Lipcolor Maximum Red,” which contained 56 ppm. Christian Dior’s “Addict Positive Red” had twenty-one ppm and cost nearly twenty-five dollars per tube, according to the Neiman Marcus Web site. The lipstick placed sixth on the list and all price ranges were found to contain lead.
Lipsticks that tested positive for lead were all a red hue.

In the lead lipstick Frequently Asked Questions section of their Web site, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics said that any amount of lead in ingestible cosmetics is harmful and the more lead in a lipstick, the greater the chance for poisoning.

Since Cover Girl, L’Oreal and Christian Dior lipsticks all have lead content over the 0.1 ppm allowed in candy and since lipstick can be ingested like candy, similar regulations should apply to lipstick, according to the Campaign’s FAQ.

Junior Camille Kent said, “I haven’t even heard about [lead content in lipsticks].” Other students sitting at her table agreed that they also had not heard about the situation.

After being informed about the situation, many women responded with shock. “How is that even possible to have lead in lipsticks?” asked junior Paige Gardner. She said she used Mary Kay’s, which did not show up on the list because it was not tested.

Although lipstick is often directly ingested, the FDA lacks any sort of enforcement regulations under their jurisdiction in the cosmetics industry, according to a packet of information the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics released in October.

Despite evidence showing lead’s negative effect on humans, the usage of lead in cosmetic products has not yet been made illegal in the United States. The Home Safe Environmental Web site documents that Germany, Japan and Australia banned lead as early as the 1920s.

The Lead Industry Association, a U.S. trade group, denies that lead is as deadly as many groups claim. The association said they would continue to “combat adverse publicity due to lead poisoning,” according to information released by The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is calling for FDA regulations on cosmetics and for them to make it illegal for cosmetic companies to use lead in their products.

According to the campaign’s Frequently Asked Questions, lead can be an accidental byproduct of lipstick ingredients, but some companies produce lipsticks without any detectable lead traces. The Campaign believes that other companies could follow suit.

Gardner agreed that it should be illegal to put lead in lipsticks. “Lead poisoning kills people. It just does not make any sense why it should be acceptable to use lead in lipsticks,” she said.

Junior Antonia Machado added, “If it is illegal to use lead in paint, then it should definitely be illegal to use in lipsticks, which we put on our bodies and indirectly eat.”