May 17, 2011 – In a report released by Environmental Defence, it was disclosed that 100% of products tested, all tested positive nickel and over 90% tested positive for both lead and beryllium. Environmental Defence is calling on Health Canada to modify their regulating standards and to enforce the laws set forth.
What Toxic Heavy Metals Were Found in Makeup Cosmetics
SGS Canada tested a wide array of mascaras, eye shadows, lip glosses and other cosmetic products that are worn everyday by most women. The results were alarming and outrageous:
- 100% tested positive for nickel
- 96% tested positive for lead
- 90% tested positive for beryllium
- Products, on average, contained at least 4 of the 8 metals of concern (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, beryllium, nickel, selenium and thallium)
- Highest levels of arsenic (70ppm) cadium (3ppm) and lead (110ppm), found in lip glosses that are often ingested while being worn
- Highest level of lead was Benefit Benetint lip gloss, 110ppm whichwas 10 times higher than allowable level (Health Canada allows 10ppm maximum on lead in products) The same brand contained 70ppm Arsenic, which is 20x higher than Health Canada limits of 3ppm.
How Toxic Heavy Metals Get Into Makeup and Cosmetics
These metals are not put there intentionally, they are simply impurities in the product and are not required to be listed on the labels, since they are not a directly-added ingredient. Manufacturers could, and should, take care to remove these impurities, but time is money and since guidelines are so laid-back, very few manufacturers remove these heavy metals from the final product.
Neither Health Canada nor the FDA require the manufacturers to supply test results before the market is allowed for sale to the general public. Rather, it is up to the manufacturer to “know” what is allowed and not allowed and to follow the rules. Basically, it’s an honor system and the consumer pay the price for those manufacturers who are not on their best honor.
Toxic Metals of Concern in Makeup Cosmetics
Canada needs to modify their guidelines to not only lower the allowable amount of toxic metals allowed in makeup cosmetics, but also needs to include the whole range of metals that are a concern. They include:
Health Hazards Caused by Toxic Metal Build-Up in Body
Heavy metals accumulate in your body and over time, cause a variety of health concerns including: cancer; reproductive and developmental issues; neurological disorders; loss of memory; mood swings; joint and muscle problems; problems with cardiovascular, skeletal, blood, immune system, kidney and renal systems; headaches; vomiting, nausea, diarrhea; lung damage; dermatitis; brittle hair and hair loss.
Heavy metals are also considered to be endocrine disruptors which disrupt your normal regulation of hormonal levels. They are also suspected to be respiratory toxins and there are no known “safe” blood levels.
How Consumers Can Avoid Heavy Metal Toxins in Makeup Cosmetics
Consumers need to begin reading labels and doing their research before using makeup cosmetic products. Since these heavy metals will not appear on the labels as a direct ingredient, you will need to research the brand and company and get familiar with ingredients that you need to avoid.
As The Vancouver Sun reported May 16, 2011, you wont’ find these metals listed on the ingredient label and will have to do your own research to find out what’s safe and what isn’t. Consumer can pressure Health Canada and ask them to start enforcing the guidelines and making it mandatory that full lists of ingredients are disclosed to consumers, including by-products and contaminants.
The Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned parents to avoid letting their children use any products that contained lead. Unfortunately, there are no quick and easy lists to read so as to how parents can help their children avoid lead in their products is anyone’s guess.
What the Cosmetic Industry Says About Toxic Metals in Makeup Cosmetics
Now of course, we can guess what the industry says about any concern for toxic metals in cosmetics, but for the sake of argument and to remain unbiased – let’s give a paragraph or so to Darren Praznik, president and CEO of the Canadian Cosmetics, Toiletries and Fragrances Association (CCTFA).
Praznik indicates the Enviornmental Defence’s report was skewed and misleading; designed to only scare the general public. He also indicates that that consumers would have to consume “several pounds of cosmetics every day to get within any amount that was of real risk…”.
To Mr. Praznik I would say, ” since these toxic heavy metals are known to accumulate in our bodies over time, how can you tell me that consuming even ‘acceptable’ levels of lead and arsenic will not cause me serious health issues after a decade or two?” The body does not rid itself of these metals and with so many products containing these metals, you are likely ingesting much more than you think.
I would also note that Mr. Praznik indicated that “skin wouldn’t absorb any heavy metals because it acts as a strong shield,” but I wonder if Mr. Praznik has heard of propylene glycol and other cosmetic ingredients that increase absorption rates and allow these toxic chemicals to penetrate the skin easier? Sure the skin is strong, but it’s not made of teflon and what goes ON your body, goes IN your body.
One last note as to why Mr. Praznik hold his viewpoint: It’s his job! He represents 160 companies that are members of the CCTFA including: L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Chanel and Procter & Gamble Beauty, so there is really no surprise which side of the fence he’s on. Imagine how long a president could hold onto his position if he starting saying ” These cosmetic companies are poisoning the general public and don’t want to spend the extra money to ensure the heavy metals are removed from the final product!”
Finding Products Without Harmful Ingredients
You can check out the Environmental Working Groups Cosmetic Database and look up the products you use. The database shows what ingredients are present as well as which ingredients are likely to be contaminated with unwanted ingredients.
Consumers can also find natural products stores that strictly avoid toxic chemical ingredients. Just because a product is in a “natural” section does not mean it is the safest out there. A few boutiques, especially online, are offering only toxic-free products that do not contain questionable ingredients. Stores like Natural e GREEN offer a variety of personal care and cleaning products for the whole family and keep their customers informed with the latest information.
You may also wish to read books on these subjects and get familiar with ingredients you should avoid. “The Cosmetic Chemicals Guide: What You Need to Know Before You Buy”, is a great book that outlines the various common chemicals and alternate names it goes under. It is a thinner style handbook that can fit in your purse and serve as a great reference.