Fox News makes me laugh. The other day I watched them show a beautiful picture of the woods in upstate New York and then call it "a wasteland of economic development." In other words, destroy nature if it may make you money. But then they aired a story alerting the public about toxic metals in lipstick, so I have to "commend" them for that. Kind of. At least they talked about environmental health. I decided to look into it, and found the original study the report was based off of. Researches at UC Berkeley measured levels of lead, cadmium, chromium, aluminum, manganese, cobalt, copper, nickel, and titanium in 32 lipsticks and lip glosses used by young women. Twelve girls ages 14-19 were asked to record the brand and product name of lip products they and their family members use. The products were then purchased by the researchers. Although the product names were not released, 26 were from the drugstore, 4 were from a major department store, and 2 were from a specialty chain store.
It's not just the amount of metal in each product that is important... it's how much is actually ingested by the wearer. When you wear lipstick or gloss, you end up eating most of it. It gets on your food, and on your tongue and inside your mouth during the day. It was found that women ingest about 24 milligrams of lipstick per day, and up to 87 milligrams for women who use it a lot. Concentrations of metals in the lip products were converted to daily intake values (how much women ingest daily). Lead was detected in 24 of the 32 products, but was under the level that is considered safe. However, it is still a concern for children who may play with makeup because no level of lead exposure is considered safe for them. Estimated intakes for nickel and copper were also well below the safe intake levels even for high use. However, the study found that average use of some of the products tested could result in excessive exposure to chromium, aluminum, cadmium, and manganese. Chromium is linked to stomach cancer and high levels of manganese can be toxic to the nervous system. Cadmium can cause kidney and respiratory problems. Aluminum is relatively nontoxic, but can cause neurotoxicicity, kidney problems, and other health issues at high concentrations.
This study should make the FDA pay attention. Currently, there are no standards for metals in cosmetics. The FDA really needs to regulate. The European Union considers cadmium, chromium and lead to be unacceptable ingredients, at any level, in cosmetic products. Over the years, the US has banned 22 chemicals in cosmetics, but the EU has banned over 1,300 chemicals. Until Congress does something, (that's a joke) like passing the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act, consider trying safer cosmetics from companies that are committed to consumer and environmental safety. Generally, I would recommend Burt's Bees, but some disturbing findings show that one of their products contains lead. A 2007 study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found lead in their tinted chapstick (Is it a coincidence that Burt's Bees sold to Clorox in 2007?). Two follow-up studies were conducted in 2009 and 2012. Below are the results from the 2012 study. They show the top 20 lip products with the most lead out of 400 tested. Sadly, a Burt's Bees product was one of them. The values below are in parts per million (for example, 3 ppm means 3 out of every million atoms or molecules would be lead atoms). For reference, the "action level" for lead in drinking water according to the Safe Drinking Water Act is 0.015 ppm. The FDA even has a standard of 0.1 ppm for lead in candy. The levels below are well above that. So what can you do? I have recommended the Environmental Working Group's cosmetics database before, and I'll recommend it here. You just type in the brand or product you're interested in and it will give you information about it. This website by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics also lists brands that are considered safe, along with links to their websites. It's impossible to cut out contact with all toxic metals, but by making an effort you can at least get rid of the ones in your makeup.