The lead levels in lipsticks are often compared to the lead levels in candy because the FDA has not yet issued specific standards for lead content in lipstick.
The FDA's limit for lead in candy is 0.1 parts per million (ppm).
So, how does the law regulate the safety in cosmetics?
On their website, U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) states that the two most important laws pertaining to cosmetics marketed in the United States are the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA).
However, FDA further adds that: "FDA's legal authority over cosmetics is different from other products regulated by the agency, such as drugs, biologics, and medical devices. Cosmetic products and ingredients are not subject to FDA premarket approval authority, with the exception of color additives."
As far as responsibility for substantiating the safety of cosmetics, FDA states: "Cosmetic firms are responsible for substantiating the safety of their products and ingredients before marketing ... In general, except for color additives and those ingredients which are prohibited or restricted from use in cosmetics by regulation, a manufacturer may use any ingredient in the formulation of a cosmetic provided that the ingredient and the finished cosmetic are safe ..."
How safe lipsticks tainted with lead are is yet to be known. But lead is not listed as ingredient prohibited or restricted from use in cosmetics. And lead, as you will read next in this report is a very dangerous substance to put into our bodies.
Nevertheless, the American government officials are noticing the attention the lead in lipstick concern is getting from the general public.
On November 19, 2007, Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) wrote a letter to FDA Commissioner, Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach today, requesting a full investigation into lipstick products containing lead levels above the legal limit, as recently reported by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
The CSC report highlights the fact that this lack of oversight means consumers are directly ingesting lead each time they wear one of these lipstick products. The senators' letter asks the FDA to retest the lipsticks that raised red flags, and take immediate steps to reduce consumers' exposure to lead in lipstick and other cosmetics.
"Dangerous levels of lead in lipstick is the latest reminder that insufficient safeguards at the FDA pose real risks to everyday Americans. From the cosmetics store to the sun block parents count on to protect their children's skin, there has been a continuous flow of unnerving news in recent months about the FDA's clear lack of oversight and inspection. Washington is gambling with our health, whether we are aware of it or not. It's time for the FDA to start taking this responsibility more seriously."
"Toxic chemicals like lead do not belong in cosmetics such as lipstick that people may be exposed to everyday," Senator Barbara Boxer, Chairman Environment and Public Works Committee. "FDA should do everything in its power to get products with lead off the shelf."
"I was surprised to learn that lipsticks worn every day have been found to contain dangerous levels of lead. The Food and Drug Administration needs to fully investigate the potential health risks posed by lead in lipsticks. And federal guidelines may be needed to safeguard women's health and reduce the amount of lead in cosmetic products," U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein said.
The CSC points out that the FDA has not set a limit for lead in lipstick. High levels of lead are of particular concern to pregnant women, because high doses of lead can have significant impacts on the early brain development of babies and toddlers. Lead has been linked to learning and behavioral problems in children, such as reduced IQ, poorer school performance and aggression.
You can read the text of the letter at Senator John Kerry's website.