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Lead in lipstick

In the past few years, you may have seen e-mails about lead in lipstick. These e-mails say that several cosmetics companies have lowered their prices on certain lipsticks because they contain lead, and that lead causes cancer.

Research shows that exposure to some types of lead may cause cancer in humans. However, lead exists in the environment both naturally and because of human activity. Very low (trace) levels are present in many substances, including foods.

Lead is banned in Canadian cosmetics. It's not allowed to be added as an ingredient in cosmetics, and no cosmetic can contain more than trace levels of lead. The most likely source of trace levels of lead in cosmetics is from impurities in raw materials.

Health Canada is creating guidelines for limits on impurities in cosmetic products, such as lead. Cosmetics manufacturers are responsible for making sure their products contain as little lead as possible. However, Health Canada will take action if there is a suspected risk with a specific product.

In 2007, the US based Campaign for Safe Cosmetics analyzed 33 lipsticks and found more than trace amounts of lead in many of them. Following this report, the FDA developed a highly sensitive test to measure total lead content in lipstick and re-tested the lipsticks. The FDA did find traces of lead in the lipsticks but did not consider the levels a health concern.

In 2008, Health Canada tested for lead in a wide range of lipsticks. No detectable levels of lead were found in most products, and those with detectable levels were considered to be below the safe level.

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