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Group Says Lipsticks Contain Lead

Group Says Lipsticks Contain Lead Sixty Percent of Brands Tested Have Lead WebMD Medical News By Todd Zwillich Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD More from WebMD J&J First to Promise...

Oct. 12, 2007 -- Several popular brands of lipstick contain lead, a coalition of health and environmental groups say.

The group reports that it found lead in 20 of 33 lipstick brands it tested. They include popular brands like L'Oreal, Dior, and Cover Girl.

"The cosmetics industry has a lead problem," says Stacy Malkan, a spokeswoman for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. The group consists of a handful of environmental groups and other groups including the Breast Cancer Fund.

The brands with the highest lead levels included:

  • L'Oreal Colour Riche "True Red," containing 0.65 parts per million (ppm) of lead
  • L'Oreal Colour Riche "Classic Wine," containing 0.58 ppm
  • Cover Girl Incredifull Lipcolor "Maximum Red," containing 0.56 ppm
  • Dior Addict "Positive Red," containing 0.21 ppm

Malkan says 39% of the red lipsticks in the sample contained no lead. "It's obviously possible to make red lipstick without lead. The companies should be doing that," she tells WebMD.

In a statement, John Bailey, executive vice president of the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association, calls the levels of lead found in cosmetics "negligible" and said the element is not intentionally added to products.

The average amount of lead a woman would be exposed to when using cosmetics is 1,000 times less than the amount she would get from eating, breathing, and drinking water that meets Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) drinking water standards," the statement says.

'No Rationale' for Lead

"It's not a helluva lot of lead, like what's been reported in lead paint on toys imported from China," says John Rosen, MD, a pediatrician and lead exposure expert from Children's Hospital at Montefiore in New York.

"But from a public health perspective, there's no rationale for a consumer product to have any lead at all," he tells WebMD.

Cosmetics have been known for years to contain small amounts of lead. Some brands advertise lead-free ingredients, while others continue to contain the metal.

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