Beware of lipstick-stained lips before puckering up this Valentine's Day. They could be covered in lead.
Reuters first reported that a new study conducted by the FDA found that 400 lipsticks on the market tested positive for lead, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition that advocates for safer cosmetics and hygiene products.
Maybelline Color Sensation by L'Oreal USA was the worst-offending lipstick of the group tested, the Campaign said. It contained more than 275 times the amount of lead that was found in the least-contaminated product.
Children's products in the U.S. cannot contain more than 100 parts per million of lead. The highest offending lipstick contained 7.19 parts per million, the group said.
Oddly, the least contaminated was also the least expensive: Wet & Wild Mega Mixers Lip Balm. This just shows that cost is not a factor in lead levels, said Stacy Malkan, co-founder of Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.
"There is no safe level of lead exposure," Malkan told ABCNews.com. "It builds up in the body over time. A little bit every day is adding up and staying with you."
Malkan said women use an average of 12 cosmetic and hygiene products per day.
Lead is a poisonous metal, and it was banned from paint products in the U.S. in 1978. The element is particularly dangerous to young children because it can cause blood and brain disorders in developing bodies.
There are no FDA standards in regulating the amount of chemicals in products, said Malkan. Companies don't even need to know the chemicals that they are putting in their products.
"When these companies are asked about these chemicals, they argue, 'it's legal, so it's OK,'" said Malkan. "That's why we're calling for the FDA to set a standard and give guidance to these companies for the best manufacturing practices."
There is no safe level of lead for children, according to the CDC. The government agency issued a report that implored companies to keep lead out of their products to prevent exposure to pregnant women and children.
But the FDA seems to disagree. The government agency told Reuters in a statement, "The FDA did not find high levels of lead in lipstick. We developed and tested a method for measuring lead in lipstick and did not find levels that would raise health concerns."
Lipstick is only the latest cosmetic to raise red flags. Kim Anderson, executive director of Ava Anderson Non-Toxic, a cosmetic line of chemical-free products, said customers should shy away from any product that lists "fragrance" as an ingredient.
"If they're using the word fragrance, that company could be hiding up to 600 chemicals under that word," said Anderson, who advocates for safer cosmetic regulations. "Seventy-five percent of the time, fragrances contain phthalates, a known-carcinogen that causes reproductive issues in the body."
Even perfumes are coming under fire. A proposed bill in New Hampshire would prohibit state employees from spritzing on perfume or cologne before heading to work. The reason? For some people, these fragrances can cause severe allergic reactions. Interestingly, the federal government's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters enacted a policy in Spring, 2010, which banned employees from wearing fragrances, as well.
"We support such a ban," said Malkan. "As we see more perfumes, we see more people who are sensitive to the fragrances, that can cause headaches, breathing difficulties and asthma. The fact that the CDC has a fragrance-free policy should be an indicator of something."
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is launching the Kiss Lead Goodbye contest Tuesday, when women are encouraged to submit video submissions to hear what they have to say to cosmetic giants that put lead in their products. Learn more at www.SafeCosmetics.org/kissleadgoobye
- Campaign for Safe Cosmetics