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Headlines > Regulation & Safety

Campaign For Safe Cosmetics highlights study on metals in cosmetics

By Simon Pitman , 17-May-2011
Last updated on 17-May-2011 at 16:36 GMT

Lobby group the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics has drawn attention to a new study that highlights potential dangerous levels of heavy metals in cosmetics products.

The report, which originates from Environmental Defence Canada, shows that popular cosmetic products can contain heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and cadium.

The study lists 49 cosmetic and personal care products that were tested during the study, all of which were found to contain heavy metals, some of which ‘exceeded the limits recommended by Health Canada’, the government watchdog.

Heavy metals are not labelled

The report also highlights the fact that none of the heavy metals detected during the testing process were actually labelled on the product.

“Consumers in the United States use the same products and face similar weakness in cosmetics safety standards,” said Lisa Archer, Director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which is also affiliated to the Breast Cancer Fund.

“The fact that there are so many hidden impurities in cosmetics shows how urgently we need laws that protect consumers by ensuring products are safe.”

All tested products contained nickel

The tests found that all of the products contained nickel, 96 percent contained lead and 90 percent contained beryllium, while one product contained seven of the eight heavy metals being tested for, which also included arsenic, cadmium, mercury, selenium and thallium.

The product singled out as containing the highest level of lead was Benefit’s Benetint lip gloss, which measured 110ppm in the tests, a figure that is claimed to be 10 times higher than the recommended safety limit established by Health Canada.

Heavy metals are not required to be labelled by cosmetics or personal care manufacturers marketing or distributing products in either Canada or North America, although the organisation cites Health Canada as being more proactive by establishing suggested safety limits.

Move towards plant-based colorants

“Some cosmetics companies are moving toward plant-based colorants to avoid heavy metal contamination,” said Archer. “Others are asking their suppliers to screen for contaminants. But the only way to protect all consumers is to pass laws that ensure the products we use on our bodies are safe.”

Back in 2007, the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics drew attention to studies highlighting potentially toxic levels of lead in lipsticks commonly sold in North America.

However, two years later FDA scientists responded to the claims with a study that found the levels of lead in lipstick were well below those recommended by international regulatory authorities – a fact that was picked up on by the Personal Care Products Council.

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