Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lead In Lipstick: FDA Reality Check

Reality Check

For many years now the public has become concerned about toxic levels of lead in our environment, such as in old homes, paints, water pipes, etc. Then NGO's turned their attention to the cosmetic and skincare industry. Digging as deep as they can to turn up every trace element that can be found in our beauty products.

The problem with their supposition, as always, they try to extrapolate this problem to things we find in our environment and drinking water to somehow being able to cause harm through skin penetration or miniscule amounts that may be licked off, all for a cause without precedent or merit.

I have written many articles showing the science, such as nano particles, penetration enhancers, EPA Report, and every scientific data I am able to include within these articles, to bring an accurate synopsis to contradict the theories the EWG and CFSC have been purporting....they still don't have the science.

What we need to remember, lead is ubiquitous and is found in our soil, water, food, air, etc. It can and will never be completely removed from our lives as hard as we may try. Yes we can avoid it whenever possible, by making good choices, but we drink more allowable lead in our drinking water than what we would find in our cosmetics. And lead found in soil is taken up by the plants we ingest (fruits and vegetables), it is simply a fact of nature.

Lead In Lipstick

Due to the publicity of lead in our environment and the CDC reporting there is never a safe level for lead contaminants, and they along with advocates would prefer "zero", especially in pregnant women and small children, CFSC set their sights on the cosmetic industry and in particular, lipstick.

Testing some 33 name brand products in 2007, initially to prove that lead was found in lipstick, basically to make their argument and to sell books implying that lipstick is killing us ever so slowly.

Now ordinarily one may be concerned based on the CDC's recommendations on having "zero" lead in all things, but at the same time the realization is, this can never happen.

The EPA's allowable levels of lead in our drinking water is 15 parts per billion. And let me make it perfectly clear, lead is not added to lipstick, but is a natural contaminant that occurs from ingredients used in the making of lipsticks, particularly "red" lipstick due to certain colorants used.

The EPA's Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) for lead in drinking water of 0.015 mg/L, or 15 parts per billion, as the legally enforceable standard that applies to public water systems.

I know one thing for sure, I have yet to meet or know of anyone who ingests a gallon of lipstick per when this comes down to the day "pigs fly", I hardly see any concern for consumption of an inordinate amount of lead to be consumed, let alone absorbed, even if you live to be thousand, there poses little risk of lead exposure through your favorite lipstick.

FDA Expands It Report

The FDA recently published the latest information on the levels of lead found in lipstick, and they tested and studied more than 400 lipsticks and chose those based on the market share they controlled, nationally. Since this would obviously reach a larger demographic of women, hence a higher exposure to the contaminant, supposedly.

The FDA also used a private, independent laboratory for their testing known as Frontier Global Sciences in Seattle, WA. I'm assuming to protect the findings from the NGO's screaming "vested interest."

There were some in the beauty industry fighting the claims that the lead found in lipstick at the ratios which fell well below that of candy, were far safer and were at a lower risk since we eat candy and not our lipstick. The FDA of course does not support this claim and I also found it to be a poor analogy. The FDA-recommended upper limit for lead in candy is 0.1 ppm. It is not scientifically valid to equate the risk to consumers presented by lead levels in candy, a product intended for ingestion, with that associated with lead levels in lipstick, a product intended for topical use and MAYBE ingested in minute quantities than that of candy. Therefore, the risk is even further minimized.

Also, it was important for the FDA to do updated testing to make sure things had either improved, got worse, or no change. No matter what some say about the inefficiency of the FDA, they strictly regulate all colorants used in food, drug, cosmetics and LIPSTICK. The Safety of Colorants is very important in this regard since many of them are also ingested and not just used to make us look pretty.

Some Still Scream Foul

Of course the CFSC are now screaming "told you so", and are incorrectly skewing the values to make their argument stronger, when in reality, no one has ever denied that this contaminant can be found in most of the large commercial brands of lipsticks. It was denying the accusation of adding lead to lipstick as though it was a "must have" ingredient to make lipstick. This was typically skewed and vague information and / or never corrected by the CFSC, that it was simply a contaminant of another ingredient. It was imperative to their agenda to allow the consumers to be under the misconception that manufacturers were adding lead to lipsticks. After all this would generate more buzz and accumulate more followers of classic phenom as the blind leading the blind. But the actual numbers of lead contamination are so small that looking to lipstick as the reason of what is killing us, is so far overreaching, it becomes comical.

We will consume far more lead in our lifetimes through the ingestion of foods and our drinking water, that lipstick shouldn't even be on our radar as a main cause for concern. True Red lipstick's colorants seem to have the highest level of lead found due to the colorants used (dyes and lakes), so if one is truly concerned, avoid this color altogether. There are many other beautiful colors besides RED lipstick. Also many ingredients used to formulate the large commercial brands have a higher incidence of lead, but where the concern lies according to the FDA, is with overseas manufacturing where there is no regulation for this contaminant and then is imported to the U.S. However, there are some U.S. manufacturers providing some products which contain some trace element of lead.

You can read the chart within the FDA Report link I provided above as to the companies which contain the highest levels of lead to the lowest. also offers further lead information in cosmetics.

Scientists and Chemists Sound Off

Forbes did an article on the expanded report by the FDA and this began a buzz with chemists and scientists explaining how the lead was extracted to get the results the FDA provided, and the actual mathematical analysis on true risk involved. Emails were exchanged and I would like to share with you some of the facts involved in the study.

Once again Stacy Malkin, Lobbyist, Co-founder of Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, Author (non Science) of Not Just A Pretty Face, responded to the article and as usual over dramatized and inflated the risks to again continue to create fear in women. One of the chemists from the UK, Dene Godfrey, had an email exchange with other scientists and responded to her comment in full detail. You may recognize him from past guest articles he wrote in my blog. You can read the exchange on the link above in Forbes.

Dene Godfrey is past President at the Society of Cosmetic Scientists in the United Kingdom and has over 28 years experience of preservation of personal care products in technical and commercial roles, including NPD (New Product Development). He has a degree in chemistry.

What is important to note, is about how lead is assimilated by the body so as to understand how the body might handle lead found in lipstick.

Email response by Colin Sanders from the UK. He has been a formulator of cosmetic and topical pharmaceuticals for 27 years. Over that time he has formulated nearly every category of product including shampoos, cosmetic skin creams, pharmaceutical skin creams, face masks, lip balms and so on. He has been an active member of the Society of Cosmetic Scientists since 1985 and in 1999 organized the first of the Formulate shows. His degree is in environmental science and he continues to take a keen interest in the impact of human activities on the planet. He regards himself as an environmental activist and all round green.

"The lead is bound up in mineral particles making it hard for the body to absorb it. If you look at the test method the FDA were using they were extracting it using hydrofluoric acid. On top of that the particles are coated with wax. And the amount applied for all but the most dedicated lipstick lover is tiny. And only a fraction gets ingested anyway. And even then, the levels measured were below WHO guidelines for drinking water.

I think it is safe to conclude that lipsticks are safe even with the levels of lead measured in the second study."

Another Email response by Perry Romanowski who has over 18 years experience formulating products to solve consumer problems in the personal care and cosmetic industry. He is also an author who has published extensively about the field of cosmetic science. He is currently Vice President of Brains Publishing which specializes in science education. Perry received his B.S. in Chemistry from DePaul University. He has written and edited numerous articles and books, teaches Society of Cosmetic Chemists continuing education classes in cosmetic science.

"The other thing neglected is that the amount of lead in lipstick would only matter if it were bio-available. I attended a talk by a scientist who was explaining what they had to do to analyze the amount of lead in lipstick. They needed to use the most potent acid available (HF) to dislodge the lead because HCl was not strong enough.

This essentially means that even if the lead from lipstick gets in your body, there is no mechanism by which it would interact with your body metabolism."

In all the exchanges, too many to list so I chose the most relevant, much was learned, but the key issue is the FDA found no health risk in the ppm amount measured and this is echoed by Health Canada as well. Despite the reports and the support of agencies having independent testing done, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics continues a diatribe of disinformation and scare tactics. Furthermore, the irony of CFSC arguing "just take the lead out", I have to ask, what about their compact signers?...... since there are two of them listed on the FDA report as containing low levels of lead contaminant.....interesting.

Our New Lip Colors

For those that still remain concerned, we of course strive for an excellent product, so we are pleased to announce that our newly formulated lip colors are now available. They of course, are far improved and the colors are rich and beautiful.

Furthermore, our lab has only certified the pigments used to be free from lead. Our colorants are provided by reputable suppliers that ensure the mineral pigments have been purified from heavy metals. Our lip pigments were also third party tested to verify they pass for safety.

But with that, also realize that many pigments utilized by commercial brands may not necessarily create the lead issue. Coal Tars were popular originally for creating dyes and lakes and these were heavily contaminated with lead. Most of today's colorants come from petroleum based formulations, whereby removing much of the concern. Other colorants favored are micas and iron oxides.

Dyes and lakes must be used in order to get those vibrant, flamboyant colors....colorants we will continue to steer clear of and provide only beautiful, deep, soft, rich colors through the use of micas and iron oxides.

Where we may still see some slight contamination, is the lead bound in soil from where plant extracts are taken and then utilized in cosmetics. So by today's standards, removal of lead completely may be near impossible depending on synthetic or natural ingredients used, especially when there are allowable safe amounts designated by many health organizations including WHO (World Health Organization). With this latest knowledge, I feel comfortable advising to continue to enjoy using your favorite lipstick.....or not....the choice is always yours.

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