FDA Proposes Lowering Lead Amounts in Lipsticks

The FDA is looking to lower lead amounts in lipstick. But does it go far enough? (Photo: Priscilla de Castro)
The FDA is looking to lower lead amounts in lipstick. But does it go far enough? (Photo: Priscilla de Castro)

Following years of pressure from environmental groups, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued recommended guidelines regarding the amount of lead allowed in lipstick and other cosmetics.

“Lead is a chemical element for which toxicity in humans has been well documented,” the FDA wrote in its draft guidelines, issued on Wednesday, as reported by the Hill. “Cosmetics manufacturers are responsible for avoiding potentially harmful levels of lead in their finished products.”

The new limits call for no more than 10 parts per million (ppm) of lead in lipstick, lip gloss, lip liner, eyeshadow, blush, shampoo, and body lotion.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has called out the FDA for not acting on the problem of lead in beauty products ever since publishing its 2007 study “A Poison Kiss,” which found that 61 percent of lipsticks contained lead in up to .65 ppm. A 2010 follow-up study by the FDA found levels of up to 7.19 ppm, with the highest levels discovered in brands including CoverGirl, L’Oréal, and Revlon. The campaign pointed to studies that found any amount of lead exposure is unsafe and has been linked to neurotoxicity, reduced fertility in both men and women, hormonal changes, and delayed onset of puberty.

Still, the FDA noted, “We consider the recommended maximum lead level to be achievable with the use of good manufacturing practices and consistent with the 10 ppm maximum lead level for similar products recommended by other countries, and we have concluded that the recommended maximum lead level would not pose a health risk.”

The Environmental Working Group (EWG), however, believes the new guidance does not go far enough.

“Lead has no place in personal care products, especially products marketed to children, who are especially vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead. While we welcome renewed attention from FDA, we urge the agency to prohibit the presence of lead in lip products marketed to children and to require a warning on all personal care products that contain lead,” Scott Faber, senior vice president of governmental affairs for EWG, said in a statement.

He continued: “In light of recent revelations of high lead levels in drinking water in Flint and hundreds of other communities, public health agencies should take every precaution to reduce exposure to lead and should be pushing cosmetic companies to reduce lead exposure as much as possible. Congress should also act swiftly to reform cosmetics law to require FDA reviews of other dangerous substances in cosmetics. Sadly, lead is not the only toxin hidden in our personal care products.”

A proposed bipartisan bill, cosponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, would amend the FDA’s weak Cosmetic Act — last updated, unbelievably, in 1938 and basically leaving the entire makeup and skin-products industry unregulated.

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