As National Lipstick Day is observed on July 29, a toxics watchdog group issued a red alert following its discovery of dirt-cheap lipsticks that are heavily contaminated with lead, a chemical banned in cosmetics.
The EcoWaste Coalition has warned consumers, especially women of reproductive age, against the proliferation of what it calls “poison lipsticks,” or unauthorized lipsticks containing outrageous levels of lead that are sold at rock-bottom prices, particularly in the informal market.
“We advise the public to refrain from consuming cheap but unauthorized poison lipsticks such as imitation ones that may contain lead and other impurities, which are invisible to the naked eye. Don’t get easily swayed by low prices. Lead-containing lipsticks are hazardous to health and should not be made, sold and used,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“Consumers, particularly women of child-bearing age, should not wear lead-contaminated lipsticks. A pregnant woman may ingest lead as she applies and reapplies a lead-containing lipstick on her lips. Unknown to her, she may be exposing the baby in her womb to lead as this substance is able to cross the placental barrier and accumulate in fetal tissues,” said environment health scientist Dr. Geminn Louis C. Apostol from the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) which has listed lead among the “ten chemicals of major public health concern,” the “exposure of pregnant women to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth and low birth weight.”
As part of the group’s continuing campaign to protect children and women from harmful chemicals lurking in consumer products, the group purchased a total of 125 red lipsticks costing from P8.75 to P60 per canister from budget beauty product shops, “Presyong Divisoria” stores and street vendors in Caloocan, Makati, Malabon, Manila, Pasay and Quezon Cities. The samples, including counterfeits, were subsequently screened for lead using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.
Of the 125 samples, 38 products were found to contain lead up to 45,400 parts per million (ppm), way in excess of the maximum allowable limit of 20 ppm under the “ASEAN Guidelines on Limits of Contaminants for Cosmetics.” Heavy metal impurities, according to the guidelines, may be derived from the quality and purity of raw materials, and the manufacturing process.
Lipstick brands found to contain lead include Baolishi, Dexz, Koko Kollection, Meiya, Monaliza and eight variants of Qianxiu. Among the items with the highest lead concentrations per brand were:
Qianxiu Panda Lipstick #1, 45,400 ppm
Qianxiu It’s Moisturizing Matte Lasting Lipstick #6, 45,200 ppm
Qianxiu Hello Kitty Lipstick #1, 42,600 ppm
Qianxiu Lipstcik (sic) #10, 22,400 ppm
Qianxiu Temptation Lipstick #10, 21,400 ppm
Qianxiu Kiss Lipstick #10, 20,600 ppm
Qianxiu I Love Lipstick #4, 17,300 ppm
Koko Kollection #9, 10,500 ppm
Meiya Lipstick with Vit C #1, 5,266 ppm
Dexz Lipstick with Vit A&E #5, 3,667 ppm
Monaliza Series #20, 3,017 ppm
Qianxiu Pink Panther #1, 519 ppm
Baolishi Lipstick #1, 186 ppm
The above lead-containing samples are unauthorized cosmetic products, which have not gone through the notification process of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The agency has repeatedly warned that “the use of such violative products may pose health risks to consumers.”
To prevent lead exposure via lead-contaminated lipsticks, the EcoWaste Coalition urged consumers to be mindful of the following precautionary measures:
- Visit the FDA Verification Portal to check if the lipstick has the required Certificate of Product Notification.
- Get your lipstick from a licensed retailer and ask for an official receipt.
- Beware of counterfeit products: watch out for incredibly cheap prices, faulty fonts and logos, grammatical and spelling mistakes, poor packaging and other signs of adulteration.
- Use less lipstick, especially if the product is not authorized and not proven safe from heavy metals and other impurities, including bacterial contaminants.
- Parents should monitor lipsticks bought by teenage girls, and should not let young kids play with lipsticks.
To halt the proliferation of poison lipsticks, the EcoWaste Coalition urged concerned health, customs, local government and police officials to undertake law enforcement activities, including confiscating non-compliant products and going after errant manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers.
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