WHAT IT MEANS: Will you suffer lead poisoning from a single lipstick application? It's highly unlikely, but the cumulative affect of using lead-contaminated lipstick every day for decades, as many women do, could lead to serious health problems. "These small amounts applied day after day add up," says Malkan. "Those exposures stay in our bodies. We really need to be avoiding all lead exposure." Her sentiments are echoed by a number of health professionals who insist that there is no such thing as "safe" lead levels. Recent research has also found that lead builds up in bones and then gets released as your bones break down when you age, and that could lead to high blood pressure and even dementia. Plus, it's likely that lead in lipstick is added to exposure from other sources; small amounts of lead can be detected in the air, our water, our food, and dozens of other products people handle on a daily basis. "The primary problem with lipstick is that it’s used frequently by the most vulnerable: pregnant women," Malkan adds, noting that the even the tiniest amounts of lead they could ingest could cause damage to a developing fetus. A new study published in the journal NeuroToxicology finds that even small amounts of lead can alter the amount of white matter (which can influence rates of disease) in a developing baby's brain.
Unfortunately, avoiding lead in lipstick could be difficult. Malkan says that neither the FDA nor her group is able to pinpoint the exact source of the lead. It could lurk in the colorants and tints of the lipsticks, but it could also appear as a contaminant of other ingredients, like petroleum-based waxes and oils or minerals like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide (used as a colorant and in some products as a sunblock).
Published on: September 2, 2009
Updated on: March 11, 2010