What is it?

“Lead is a chemical element with symbol Pb (from the Latin plumbum) and atomic number 82. It is a heavy metal with a density exceeding that of most common materials; it is soft, malleable, and melts at a relatively low temperature.” Wikipedia

What are the effects?

This substance belongs to the groups:

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a project of Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (previously the Breast Cancer Fund) list the metal as a neurotoxin, linked to reproductive toxicity, and endocrine disruption. The metal is on their Red List*.

The U.S. governmental Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry writes that lead affects the organ systems;  “Cardiovascular (Heart and Blood Vessels), Developmental (effects during periods when organs are developing) , Gastrointestinal (Digestive), Hematological (Blood Forming), Musculoskeletal (Muscles and Skeleton), Neurological (Nervous System), Ocular (Eyes), Renal (Urinary System or Kidneys), Reproductive (Producing Children).” They also classify the metal as a probable human carcinogen.

The European Chemicals Agency (ECHA) identifies the metal as a substance that “may damage fertility or the unborn child, causes damage to organs through prolonged or repeated exposure, is very toxic to aquatic life with long lasting effects and may cause harm to breastfed children.”

Lead is prohibited and restricted in cosmetic ingredients in Canada. California EPA classify the metal as a possible human carcinogen.

The lead compounds lead cyanamidate, lead dinitrate, lead monoxide, lead oxide sulfate, lead titanium trioxide, orange lead, and lead titanium zirconium oxide are on ECHA Candidate List of “Substances of very High Concern.”

Possible contamination

The following substances may contain impurities from lead:

  • Sodium hexametaphosphate
  • Hydrogenated cottonseed oil

How is it used?

Lead has been found in many color cosmetics such as eyeliners, lipsticks and hair dyes. The metal can also be found in other externally applied (applied to the skin) cosmetics* such as eye shadows, blushes, shampoos, and body lotions.

The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warn specifically that traditionally eyeliners from many parts of the world contain large amounts of lead. Eyeliners such as Kohl, Kajal, Al-Kahal, Surma, Tiro, Tozali, and Kwalli, have been linked to lead poisoning, especially among children, who are extra vulnerable to toxic chemicals. FDA’s data also shows that “over 99% of the cosmetic lip products and externally applied cosmetics on the U.S. market contain lead at levels below 10 ppm”

Sometimes a product could be contaminated by lead and other metals even if it’s not listed in the ingredients. Ingredients derived from plant sources, such as hydrogenated cottonseed oil and sodium hexametaphosphate, may contain lead.

We use the European Commissions definition of Cosmetics:
“Cosmetics range from everyday hygiene products such as soap, shampoo, deodorant, and toothpaste to luxury beauty items including perfumes and makeup”.

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