Germany reduces heavy metal limits in cosmetics

By Lucy Whitehouse contact

- Last updated on GMT

Germany reduces heavy metal limits in cosmetics
The German government has announced a reduction in the limits for ‘technically avoidable’ heavy metals in cosmetics and personal care products.

The country’s Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) has also published new orientation values for manufacturers to use in light of the shift in limits.

The BVL says the move comes as a response to the fact that the values that had been in place were outdated.

Although EU law bans heavy metals from cosmetics, trace amounts are permitted if unavoidable and there is no danger to human health. Under EU law, there is no explicit limit to regulate this.

Germany, however, publishes orientation values for cosmetics manufactured within the country, and has a monitoring scheme in place to keep track of the levels. It is the results of this monitoring scheme that has led to the new reduction in heavy metal limits.

New limits

The following are the new limits now in place for cosmetics and toothpaste:

  • lead​: 2.0 (or 5.0 for certain make-up products) and 0.5;

  • cadmium​: 0.1;

  • mercury​: 0.1;

  • arsenic​: 0.5 (or 2.5 for theatre make-up); and

  • antimony​: 0.5.

Nickel’s limit remains unchanged at 10mg/kg.

While these changes are only applicable to Germany, the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) is also reportedly considering making amendments to its cosmetics regulation regarding limits in heavy metal use.

Why avoid heavy metals?

In simple terms, heavy metals can cause damage to skin and to a person’s general health. Studies have found some products that can be found in cosmetics to be linked to cancer, for example.

Indeed, cadmium - which is never used as an ingredient in cosmetics itself, but can sometimes appear as a byproduct in a range of finished goods, such as mascara, blusher, eyeliner and foundation - was the subject of a study in 2012.

Carried out by scientists as the Dominican University of California, the study found that only ‘small concentrations; of cadmium made breast cancer cells increasingly aggressive the longer they were exposed.

It should be stressed that, due to regulations like the newly amended limits in Germany, cadmium is only found in trace amounts in cosmetics.

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