A new report that looked at mineral makeup sold in Canada found that all 49 cosmetics tested had traces of toxic heavy metals like lead, arsenic and cadmium, though none of their packaging included these metals on ingredient lists. The highest levels were found on lip glosses.
The Environmental Defence Canada results, which were not published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, showed that all mineral makeups tested had nickel, 96% had lead, 90% beryllium and the average mineral makeup tested had four of eight heavy metals. While some levels found may violate Canadian law, it's not clear what or how big a health threat is posed by the presence of small amounts of these metals in makeup.
According to advocates in the United States, the new results should be concerning to women, and not just in Canada. While, "individual exposures to these metals in small amounts are unlikely to cause harm... heavy metals can build up in the body over time and may increase risk for a variety of health problems," according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics at the Breast Cancer Fund.
"Consumers in the United States use the same products and face similar weakness in cosmetics safety standards," Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, said in a press statement. "The fact that there are so many hidden impurities in cosmetics shows how urgently we need laws that protect consumers by ensuring products are safe."
The results echo a 2009 study by the Food and Drug Administration, which found lead in every red lipstick it tested. While the FDA said those results were preliminary and called them unsurprising, based on the composition of coloring in lipstick, health advocates urged women, particularly pregnant women, to take heed. Lead can cause permanent brain damage if fetuses or young children are exposed; other heavy metals have serious health effects too, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that, for lead specifically, there is "no safe" exposure level. (These 11 lipsticks tested lead-free in 2007.) Lead isn't the only concern with lipstick, which has several suspect and secret ingredients.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics also tested children's face paints in 2009, and found that all 10 costume makeup products it tested had lead, and six also contained nickel, chromium or cobalt.
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