Tester to FDA: Protect women from lipstick lead

Senator demands agency clarify toxin’s dangers in makeup

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is raising concerns about the rising levels of lead in lipstick, and wants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to ramp up efforts to protect women and children from lead exposure.

Testing recently revealed that the maximum level of lead found in lipstick more than doubled between 2009 and 2011. 

The FDA says lipstick lead levels are safe, but Tester points out that numerous factors could threaten women’s health.  Lead is a neurotoxin that builds up in the body over time, and Tester noted that lipstick is often used throughout the day and comes into contact with food.  Tester also noted that there are no warnings or guidance for pregnant women about using lipstick.

“Our constituents deserve to know what is contained in, and to be protected from, toxic chemicals in the products they use daily,” Tester wrote FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.  “We urge you to continue to look into these very serious concerns regarding lead content of lipstick and take action accordingly.”

The maximum allowable lead level for drinking water is 15 parts per billion, but a 2011 study by the FDA found a maximum lead level nearly 470 times higher in some lipsticks. 

Tester is asking the FDA to determine how much lead from lipstick is ingested and absorbed by the body.  Tester also wants the agency to set a maximum lead level for all lipsticks, and to require manufacturers to identify beauty products that contain lead.

Tester is also concerned because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says any level of lead exposure for children is unsafe.  Lead exposure can affect developing brains, resulting in lower IQ and behavioral problems for children who may play with their mother’s lipstick.       

Tester’s work to improve women’s health most recently included his support for legislation making it easier for Montana women to access life-saving breast cancer screenings.  He also joined a new effort to strengthen laws that prevent violence against women.

Tester’s letter to the FDA Commissioner Hamburg is available online HERE.