FDA suggests limit on lead in lipstick and other cosmetics

The Food and Drug Administration has turned a critical eye to lead in cosmetics such as lipstick, eye shadow and shampoo. In a new draft guidance issued on Thursday, the FDA suggested a limit on lead contained in cosmetics marketed in the United States:

a maximum of 10 parts per million for lead in lipsticks, lip glosses and lip liners, as well as externally applied cosmetics, such as eye shadows, blushes, body lotions and shampoo. The new guidance does not apply to hair dyes that contain lead acetate as an ingredient or to topically applied products classified as drugs. A summary document by the FDA stresses that the new guidance “does not establish any rights for any person and is not binding.” Instead, the new guidance simply represents the FDA’s “current thinking” on the issue of lead in cosmetic products. “Although most cosmetics on the market in the United States generally already contain less than 10 ppm of lead, a small number contained higher amounts, and we are aware that some cosmetics from other countries contain lead at higher levels,” the FDA said on its website. “This makes guidance on recommended maximum lead levels all the more important as more products are imported into this country.” The FDA’s thinking is that, below the 10 parts per million level, cosmetics absorbed through the skin or lipstick swallowed when consumers lick their lips will not result in detectable levels of lead in the blood.
Lead can accumulate in the body over time and can affect almost every organ and system in the body. No amount is considered safe, though certain amounts are not considered “elevated.” For adults, blood lead levels equal to or greater than 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood are considered elevated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For children, it is half this amount.

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