A study in the May 2, 2013 Environmental Health Perspectives reveals that commercial lipstick and lip gloss contain potentially hazardous levels of heavy metals, such as aluminum, cadmium, chromium and manganese. The study also notes that young people (i.e. preteens and teenagers) absorb heavy metals at higher rates than adults.
The article notes that the last decade has seen considerable publicity regarding lead (which causes brain damage, particularly in children and young people) contained in lip products. According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), lead in lipstick is merely an impurity, owing to high levels of lead in the environment. Environmental researchers state otherwise. They assert that lead-containing color pigments are the main source of lead in lipstick.
At present the FDA chooses not to regulate the amount of lead or other metals in cosmetics. They do set a maximum allowable lead concentration in candy of 0.1 ppm (1 mg/kg). As their own figures indicate, the lead levels in some popular brands of lipstick and lip gloss greatly exceed 0.1 ppm. Although most women don’t knowingly eat lipstick, they inadvertently swallow it and absorb it through mucous membranes in the mouth. Moreover some women reapply it as often as 10-12 times a day.
As the authors point out, the European Union Cosmetics Directive makes it illegal to manufacture, import or sell any cosmetic products with detectable levels of lead, cadmium, chromium or other heavy metals harmful to human health.
Cadmium is a known human carcinogen associated with lung cancer and respiratory system damage, kidney and bone impairments. Animal studies have shown that exposure to cadmium during pregnancy can result in low birth weights, skeletal deformities and behavior and learning problems
Chromium is also a known human carcinogen; inhalation causes lung cancer and oral exposure through drinking water has been linked with increased stomach tumors.
The EHP paper indicates that evidence linking manganese with neurological and neurobehavioral problems in children is still inconclusive. However there are numerous studies linking high manganese levels to Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease:
Surely it’s high time for the US to follow Europe’s example and adopt the Precautionary Principle. Under the Precautionary Principle, the burden would be on manufacturers to prove their products are safe as a condition of bringing them to market. At present, the obligation is on women to prove they’re unsafe.