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Consumer News: Money 101

Dangerous Levels of Lead In Lipstick , Lip Gloss?


LOS ANGELES (CBS) ― For many women, it is applied, and reapplied every day, day after day…..

Lipstick and lip gloss doesn't stay on the lips; its ingredients can also get into the mouth and into the bloodstream.

And there has been a persistent but unsubstantiated rumor that some lipsticks contain lead.

True or false? We put the rumor to the test.

I bought nineteen different lipsticks and lip gloss products, and then brought them to this state of the art toxicology laboratory run by the county of Los Angeles.

The results:

Out of 19 lipsticks four came back positive.

Dr. Wasfy Shindy, head of the county's environmental toxicology bureau, says these tests are extremely accurate. "We are licensed by the state and the federal government to do lead analysis."

How much lead was found in the lipstick? The numbers varied from between .2 and .4 parts per million. To put it in perspective, that's two to four times the FDA limit for lead in candy.

"I'm surprised; I'm surprised that there is lead in it," says Professor Curtis Eckhart, the chair of the department of environmental health sciences at the school of public health at UCLA.

"The FDA has set a level of .1 parts per million of candy and your levels are showing that it's four times higher than that, so by the FDA's own way of thinking it's relatively high."

Professor Eckhart is particularly concerned about young children and pregnant women.

What advice would he give parents of young children? "I think that they should avoid putting cosmetics on young children -- it's for themselves, it's not for the children." And for pregnant women? "They have to be careful, many different kind of exposures, cosmetics are just one more. I did not think lipstick would be a risk."


We bought more samples of the brands that tested positive to double check our results.


Four lipsticks by AM cosmetics had between two and four times the amount of lead allowable in candy—that company is now no longer in business, but its lipsticks can still be found in some discount stores.

Three out of four Cover Girl lipsticks tested positive with between one and two times the level allowable for lead in candy.

Cover Girl provided this written response, which says, in part: "We do not intentionally add any lead to our cosmetic products….Due to the ubiquitous nature of lead in the natural environment, it is sometimes present at trace levels….All of the raw materials we use in our lip slicks clearly meet strict FDA specifications for lead content….Our products are completely safe for our consumers before they ever go to market."

It's the FDA's responsibility to determine if lipstick has lead in it, and what levels, and what this would contribute to the various sensitive populations: infants, young children, and pregnant women.

The FDA says it has not set a safe level for lead in lipstick because it didn't think it was a problem…but in light of our findings, the FDA says it will take another look.

I will stay on top of this story and let you know if the FDA takes any action after reviewing our results.

The lipsticks which tested positive for lead were:

AM Cosmetics, Inc lipsticks with this number on the bottom:
5038A : .41 and .43 parts per million (lead)
882: .27 parts per million (lead)
769 .21 parts per million (lead)

Cover Girl Lipslicks "Precious"
Sample #1: .24 parts per million (lead)
Sample#2: .1 parts per million (lead)
Sample#3: .1 parts per million (lead)

Please note: given the small number of lipsticks that were tested, we cannot predict the amount or frequency of lead in these or other brands. Experts tell us the amount of lead found in these samples is not enough to cause any health effects on their own. It is the cumulative amount of lead from this and other sources which concerns some experts.

For more information about lead visit our related links.

(© 2006 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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