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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Columns

Shade of lead in lipstick


The Washington Post published a story regarding a Food and Drug Administration study — traces of contaminants were found in the most symbolic cosmetic on the market.

The article, written by Dina ElBoghdady, read “400 shades of lipstick found to contain lead, FDA says.” It almost doesn’t need a story. One sentence explains it all.

Lead is not meant to be in lipstick (disconnecting any false associations with the days of lead-based paint) but the FDA-approved color additives are mineral-based and have trace levels of lead.

The article noted that the lead content in the lipstick was higher than the regulated lead content for candy, but lipstick is not meant to be ingested. Before consumers toss makeup in the garbage and department store managers hastily recall their cosmetics, think about that fact.

Reading comprehension aside, this situation provides a good example of why people need to be more conscious of what they put on or inside their bodies.

How did contamination like this occur when there are alleged laws, limits, screenings, tests and several government agencies aside from the FDA whose purpose is to monitor and prevent such a situation?

The commonly seen caution that states: “WARNING: This product contains chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm,” (lesser known as California Proposition 65) is probably the best indicator for dangerous products, but this is only for items known to contain toxic chemicals and compounds — mercury thermometers, soldering irons and compact fluorescent light bulbs. If the product does not normally contain something hazardous, the warning won’t be present.

Take an example that affects a larger range of consumers. In January, the Houston Chronicle reported that 25,000 toys had been confiscated at the Port of Houston over a two-year period. Inspectors for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found the toys to be choking hazards and to have high levels of lead based paint, as well as phthalates — plastic binding esters known for causing several health concerns.

These contaminants are not abnormal flukes or recent additions to consumer products.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics conducted tests five years ago and found trace amounts of lead in lipstick in a majority of the tested shades. The FDA latched onto that 2007 test; the recent study revealed 400 shades containing lead.

Since lipstick is topical and not intended for digestion, don’t worry about nationwide lead poisoning. However, any amount of lead, mercury or other heavy metal neurotoxins is too much — it all adds up. What amount of lead do you permit in your personal care products? How much benzene are you willing to drink with your soda? How much mercury do you like in your fish?

Only personal responsibility will protect an individual from toxins and hazards. Producers are worried about profits and shareholder stakes. They sell what they can get away with. The FDA is a necessity; consumers cannot test every product on the shelves for contaminants — but the FDA can’t check everything either.

Even if they could, the law is still murky on the safety of many additives like aspartame and high-fructose corn syrup. These have questionable health effects and large propaganda behind them, but are legal “in moderation.”

Remember while shopping that no agency will provide you with complete umbrella protection, and they shouldn’t have to bear that burden .

Employees at the FDA are only human, after all.

David Haydon is a political science senior and may be reached at [email protected]

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