By Jodi A. Shaw
According to this perky little item, lipstick sales are up 40% since the start of the recession. Apparently the same thing happened after the 9/11 attacks, leading the chairmain of Esteé Lauder to coin the term “lipstick index,” to account for the phenomenon of glossy sales during bad times.
Women would be well-advised to keep an eye on another lipstick index, though — the amount of lead contained in their favourite brand.
According to a 2007 report from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC), “More than half of 33 brand-name lipsticks tested (61 percent) contained detectable levels of lead, with levels ranging from 0.03 to 0.65 parts per million (ppm). None of these lipsticks listed lead as an ingredient.”
While the FDA has not set a limit for lead content in lipstick, it has done so for candy: 0.1 ppm. The FDA acknowledges the potential danger of children directly ingesting lead via candy, but doesn’t seem overly concerned about the millions of women and teenage girls who are ingesting lead via lipstick. One lick of lipstick may not seem harmful, but lead accumulates in the body over time, so small, repeated exposures can result in an unsafe presence in the body.
The dangers of lead are concisely addressed in the CSC’s press release: “Lead is a proven neurotoxin that can cause learning, language and behavioral problems such as lowered IQ, reduced school performance and increased aggression. Pregnant women and young children are particularly vulnerable to lead exposure. Lead easily crosses the placenta and enters the fetal brain where it can interfere with normal development. Lead has also been linked to infertility and miscarriage.”
Lead-laced lips are a far cry from the advertised kissable lips we see sparkling in magazine pages or blowing kisses and smooching at us on TV.
Thirty-nine percent of the lipsticks tested by the CSC contained no lead, so you don’t need to swear off lipstick just yet. The FDA may not regulate the cosmetic industry, but the CSC and other organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG), have ample information to help consumers make informed, safe choices.
Skin Deep is a cosmetics safety database created by the EWG that “pairs ingredients in more than 42,000 products against 50 definitive toxicity and regulatory databases, making it the largest integrated data resource of its kind.”
You can search cosmetics and other products by product, ingredient, or company, and have instant access to information on ingredients, potential hazards and concerns, as well as a hazard rating from one to 10, in order of increasing hazard.
Cosmetic companies themselves are obviously not willing to admit their products are anything less than safe, offering virtually no information about the ingredients. They will, though, run the “not tested on animals” logo. Hm. Besides the fact that this doesn’t guarantee the product is low in toxins or toxin-free, it ought to make you wonder: what is it they’re putting in there that is potentially harmful to animals — and why they don’t care if it’s harmful to human beings?