Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Known for her lethal lips, Batman villainess Poison Ivy might appreciate a new study from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley who found dangerous levels of lead, chromium“¯and other metals in a number of commonly sold lipsticks.
Previous research, including a 2011 FDA study, has found toxic metals in commercial lipsticks, but the UC Berkeley team has specifically studied how long-term exposure to various concentrations of these metals relates to current health guidelines.
“Just finding these metals isn´t the issue; it´s the levels that matter,” said lead author S. Katharine Hammond, a professor of environmental health sciences at UC Berkeley. “Some of the toxic metals are occurring at levels that could possibly have an effect in the long term.”
The researchers say that the detrimental effects of these cosmetics depend on how often and how much of the product is applied. According to the study, which appeared in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, the average user applies lipstick 2.3 times a day and ingests about 24 milligrams of the product. A heavy user goes through as many as 14 applications per day and ingests an average of 83 milligrams, the study said.
Average lipstick users, as determined by this study, already expose themselves to excessive amounts of chromium, which has been linked to stomach cancer. Heavy users of these products may also be overexposed to aluminum, cadmium and manganese, the study warned. Of these metals, manganese has been connected to toxicity in the nervous system.
“Lead is not the metal of most concern,” Hammond told USA Today.
She noted that the heavy metal is found in 24 of the products, but at levels considered to be safe for adults. However, exposing children to any amount of lead is considered unsafe.
“I believe that the FDA should pay attention to this,” said lead author Sa Liu, a UC Berkeley environmental health sciences researcher. “Our study was small, using lip products that had been identified by young Asian women in Oakland, Calif. But, the lipsticks and lip glosses in our study are common brands available in stores everywhere.”
In their conclusion, the authors said that tossing out these products may be premature, but the findings do demonstrate a need for more supervision by health regulators. There are currently no federal standards for metal content in cosmetics. The European Union considers cadmium, chromium and lead to be unacceptable ingredients in cosmetic products.
“Based upon our findings, a larger, more thorough survey of lip products — and cosmetics in general — is warranted,” Liu added.
In response to the study´s findings, Personal Care Products Council spokesperson Linda Loretz said finding trace amounts of metals in cosmetics needs to be put into a larger context.
“Food is a primary source for many of these naturally present metals, and exposure from lip products is minimal in comparison,” Loretz said in a statement.
She added that the trace amounts of chromium or cadmium found in the Berkeley study are less than 1 percent of the exposure people get in a typical diet.