Lead and arsenic aren’t listed among the ingredients of lip gloss and eyeliner. However, Environmental Defence, a Canadian environmental group tested dozens of common cosmetics products and found that virtually all of them were contaminated with heavy metals.
Researchers purchased cosmetics in Toronto, and sent them to an accredited laboratory to have them tested for the presence of arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, beryllium, selenium, thallium and nickel. The items tested included foundations, concealers, powders, blushes, bronzers, mascaras, eyeliners, eye shadows, lipsticks and glosses.
According to the Montreal Gazette:
“None of the products tested contained mercury, but lead was detected in 96 percent of the products, arsenic in 20 percent and cadmium in 51 percent. Nickel was found in all the products tested, beryllium in 90 percent, thallium in 61 percent and selenium in 14 percent.”
In the report “Heavy Metal Hazard: The Health Risks of Hidden Heavy Metals in Face Makeup,” Environmental Defence tested 49 different face makeup items, including five foundations, four concealers, four powders, five blushes or bronzers, seven mascaras, two eye liners, 14 eye shadows, and eight lipsticks or glosses. Their testing revealed serious heavy metal contamination in virtually all of the products:
Further, each product contained an average of two of the four metals of highest concern (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury), which are designated as toxic in Canada because of proven health concerns. Most of the products also contained an average of four of the eight metals tested (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, nickel, beryllium, thallium, selenium).
Despite the widespread contamination, and the fact that all the metals but nickel are banned as intentional ingredients in Canadian cosmetics, not one of the products listed the heavy metals on the label.
Although all the heavy metals researchers tested for, except for nickel, are banned from being intentionally added to Canadian cosmetics, they do not have to be labelled when they show up as “impurities.”
For instance, heavy metals can be in your makeup because they were a part of the raw ingredients used to make the product. Or they can be formed as by-products of the manufacturing process or by the breakdown of other ingredients. All of these are scenarios in which impurities will not be listed on the label, even though they are present.
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There are guidelines that attempt to protect Canadian consumers from “technically avoidable” impurities, but so far they remain in the draft form. Researchers wrote:
“Health Canada has a draft set of guidelines for some metal impurities that it considers “technically avoidable” by cosmetics companies), but progress on the guidelines has stalled, as they have remained in draft form for over two years.
… these guidelines need to be amended to better reflect what is “technically avoidable.” A study of 20 lipsticks conducted by the United States Food and Drug Administration showed lead impurity levels averaged 1.07 ppm, where Canada’s current draft guideline for lead impurities is 10 ppm, which is considerably high by comparison.”
In the United States, the proposed Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 would make it so that all ingredients, including “trade secrets” and impurities present at levels above technically feasible detection limits, would have to be listed on cosmetic labels — but it has yet to be passed.
For a quick seven-minute look at the pervasive use of toxic chemicals in everyday personal care products, watch The Story of Cosmetics below. It reveals, in a nutshell, the implications cosmetics truly have for your health.
Source: Montreal Gazette May 16, 2011