Emma Grady, New York, NY
Lead, arsenic and cadmium sound more like a chemical-laden concoction rather than ingredients found in popular cosmetics. But a new study by Environmental Defence Canada, via the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, reveals that these toxic heavy metals have been found in 49 popular cosmetic products tested and none of these heavy metals were listed on the label.
The study tested 49 products from popular brands like Laura Mercier, MAC, L’Oreal, Mary Kay, and Sephora and found that 100 percent of the products contained nickel, 96 percent contained lead and 90 percent contained beryllium. Only one product, Annabelle Mineral Pigment Dust (Solar), was found to not contain a single metal of most concern.
On average, products contained four of the eight metals of concern–mercury, arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, nickel, lead, selenium, and thallium. The Benefit Benetint lip gloss contained the highest level of lead at 110ppm, which is 10 times higher than the limit set by Health Canada.
The heavy metals found in the products tested are categorized as unintentional contaminants. They are not required to be listed on the labels, which is why it may come as a shock to some that they are in the products in the first place. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics points out that, in Canada, there are draft guidelines for impurity levels of some metals it believes are “technically avoidable.” In the United States, there are no standards for these metals in cosmetics, nor are there “draft guidelines.”
“Individual exposures to these metals in small amounts are unlikely to cause harm, but heavy metals can build up in the body over time and may increase risk for a variety of health problems,” the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics reports. Meaning, if you’re using cosmetics laden with heavy metals on a daily basis, or more than once daily, you could be putting yourself at risk.
Visit Environmental Defence to download the report (pdf) and make sure your favorite products aren’t listed. While you’re there, sign the petition asking Health Canada to better regulate impurities in cosmetics.