New FDA Guidance On Lead In Lipstick

New FDA Guidance On Lead In Lipstick


This feels like the end of a chapter.

December 21, 2016

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today issued draft guidance recommending a limit of no more than 10 parts per million (ppm) of lead as an impurity in cosmetic lip products (such as lipsticks, lip glosses, and lip liners) and externally applied cosmetics (such as eye shadows, blushes, compact powders, shampoos, and body lotions).

So now at last we have the issue of lead in lipstick settled.  This will now become a de facto world standard.  Nobody wants to make stuff that is illegal in the US even if they don’t plan to sell in the US.  And I imagine that the EU will quietly add this requirement to the EU legislation at some point anyway.

I have written about this quite often and I don’t think that this is a story that will ever completely go away.  But with the FDA issuing guidance on the appropriate level of lead in lipstick it does at least remove the ambiguity as to how much you can have.  The problem with lead from the point of view of safety is that lead is a naturally occurring material that is everywhere, so you basically cannot ever get away from it.  This means that it is very hard to come up with a way of determining what exactly is a safe level.  Nobody can tell you the level at which it ceases to be a problem.  We can’t get rid of it altogether so we are going to have to live with it.

The FDA’s proposal of no more than 10ppm is probably a lot lower than it really needs to be from a health point of view.  But any number is better than no number and this is one that it should be fairly easy to meet.  An important detail for chemists is that they have not just given the number but also defined the way it is to be measured.  This will avoid arguments about just how much lead is in a particular sample.  With low numbers, and 10 parts per million is a pretty low number, it begins to get a bit tricky to be sure what we mean by the results of chemical analysis.

I don’t think it will shut up the hardcore scaremongers and this is a story that has really deep roots.  But at least there is now an agreed limit which should satisfy most people.

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