I thought I was beyond being shocked, but this one is a real stunner…
Many years ago, I had read about studies that found lead in lipsticks and lipgloss [I actually even included a short scene about that in my film; I shot that footage in February of 2012, on the day I abruptly stopped using lipgloss altogether — when I learned that the very product that I used, touted as “all natural” (or” 99% natural”, or something along those lines), the Burts Bees Lip Shimmer, was on the list of confirmed leaded lip products]!
In these studies (reviewed here in a 2013 Mother Jones article), the lipsticks they had tested were found to have as much as 7.19 ppm (parts per million) lead. [Note: items that are intended for or maybe subject to ingestion – like food or nutritional supplements – are normally evaluated for toxicants in a lab with very sensitive equipment able to accurately measure toxicants in ppb (parts per billion)].
Documentation available online today suggests that lead (in the pigments) in lipstick is currently regulated, and must be below 10 ppm [or below the 10 to 20 ppm range] (and these web pages also state that more than 99% of lipsticks contain lead – at levels below 10 ppm). The screenshots below are from the FDA websites and were grabbed on Thursday, March 15, 2018.
With this in mind, consider my surprise when I recently tested a lipgloss that was purchased on Amazon in 2018…and found it contained lead at more than 2,000 ppm! (continue reading below…)
Many of my followers send me their own personal items to test so that I can publish the test results here and on facebook (creating a database of sorts – of toxicity in consumer goods) — most commonly they send their dishes, toys or household goods (including whatever is trending on my blog… fidget spinners? menstrual cups!?)
Instead of sending me some of her personal stuff, one curious follower/friend/fan (we’ll call her “Becca”, because, um, that’s her name!) decided to use the testing opportunity in a brilliant way… to order a bunch of sketchy-looking products on Amazon (from off-branded sources, and shipped direct from China) to have me test. One of the items she had shipped to me was this product.*(pictured here.)
*Links are Amazon affiliate links – so you can see this link “in the wild” — and hopefully help me report it to Amazon and elsewhere as a violation of FDA regulations. I am NOT including this link so you can purchase this (heavily lead-contaminated) product! [However, if you do purchase something after clicking through from any of my links, Amazon will send me a percentage of whatever you spend at no extra cost to you.] NOTE: If you want to order some more shades from this brand so I can test more than the one I already tested, that would be interesting (to see if it is just the bright red shade that is heavily leaded, or if it might extend to other or all of the shades!)
When I saw the lipgloss container, the little voice in my head said,
“This is silly, why did she send me lipstick!? Lipstick is generally considered toxic (by scientists working to protect human health and by other people in the know) at levels that are measurable in parts per billion, not parts per million, and I can’t test down to those levels with an XRF, so this is going to be a total waste of time… but she chipped in to help cover the XRF rental and testing costs… so I guess I have to test this for her…. even though I am 99.99999999% certain I will not be able to find anything notable to report!”
Well, what a stupid jerk that little voice in my head can be sometimes; I couldn’t have been more wrong in this case! Just because I have tested LOTS of creams and powders and makeups and lotions, and because almost all of those (with the exception being EarthPaste and other Bentonite clay-based products) have been negative (below the limit of detection of the XRF), doesn’t mean that is always going to be the case.
In point of fact, THAT is why I do this — to find the unexpected, to help add to the knowledgebase of potential sources of toxicants that aren’t being carefully considered (I would be fine never testing another vintage china plate again, because I know that pretty much all of them are high lead… but it’s the unexpected discoveries that make this advocacy work interesting!)
For the record, in testing this lip gloss, here is what I did (standard procedure):
- I cleaned and calibrated the testing instrument.
- I tested a ziplock bag that I would be using to hold the product I would be testing (to confirm that the bag is negative for lead).
- I took a glob of the lip gloss out of the tube using the applicator and put it in the corner of a ziplock bag.
- I then tested my work surface. (to confirm that the surface I am testing it on is also negative for lead).
- I then tested the lip gloss (though the baggie.)
- Because I was absolutely flabbergasted by the results from the first test, I re-tested the surface again (just to re-confirm that it was lead-free, even though I had already done that step once!) It was indeed lead-free.
- …and then I tested the sample again…and again…and confirmed the shocking result (below!)
In case someone doubts my test findings [which I do not create reports for (I can barely keep up with the requests and submissions as it is!), but just do for advocacy purposes/to help inform the public] I have held on to the product so that further sampling could be done. I also have photographs of the original packaging, so we can trace it back to the distribution source if necessary.
Remember the context when you read the following levels: the amount of lead that is considered toxic (by the FDA — which sets limits based more on what the manufacturers have told them is “achievable” [=”cost-effectively practical” from the industry’s perspective] and less on what is optimally protective of human health – especially in the case of cosmetics) in lipstick pigments is lead levels at 10 ppm and higher [10 parts per million is equal to 10,000 parts per billion.] For a little more context… water is considered toxic to human health at 5 ppb lead [and the regulatory level that it is considered “unsafe” for lead in water is anything 15 ppb and higher.)
The lip gloss test results:
Test One: 30.9 seconds.
Result: 2,430 ppm lead (+/- 66 ppm)
Test Two: 57.2 seconds
Result: 1,944 ppm lead (+/- 40 ppm)
& 91 +/- 27 ppm, arsenic
Please note that the difference in levels from tests like this can result from a slightly different sample, but when you are seeing levels in this range it is unequivocally positive within this range, regardless of the length of time of the test or variations in the section of the sample. Said another way, something that is positive for lead at 2,000 ppm (or thereabouts) cannot possibly be a “misread” of something that is somehow “actually under 10 ppm”! [The $30,000+ XRF instrument I use is considered the “gold standard” for accurately field testing consumer products of all kinds].
Hopefully your response to this insane bit of news falls within the following range of responses:
This is CRAZY!
How do I know if my lip product is lead free?
What can I do to help?
Here are my answers:
- Follow my lead (pronounced leeed in this case!)… if you can, please
stop using pigmented lip products. I stopped using most pigmented products back in 2012.
- Instead purchase organic, natural lip products without pigment. [Here’s a good product from a reputable local Oregon-based company!]
- Consider helping me by filing a complaint with Amazon about this product. The more complaints we file, the more quickly we can get this off the market. [Apparently the product is being sold by many vendors.]
- Consider buying some more samples of this product and sending them to me so I can have more than one example to test and I can confirm that the one tube I tested was not somehow a freaky anomaly.
- Consider reporting this to the FDA (the more reports the merrier).
- Consider contacting your local news media and sharing this post with them, I don’t know how we can reach out to everyone who has purchased this product, but the news media is always a good place to start. If we can find an investigative journalist or program that will send samples in for testing at a lab to confirm my findings, that would be great too.
- Please share this post, and comment on the post too – so more people see it! Thank you!
- In general, ask questions about the products you buy and don’t assume they are safe just because they are mass produced or being sold online (or just because the manufacturer calls them safe or because some agency says they are safe!)
- ASK to see “white papers” – of products you buy on a regular basis, especially. [Most companies will provide them or have them online, these usually included toxicity testing results.]
- If you haven’t yet seen “The Poisoner’s Handbook” on Amazon (a film about the development of the science of toxicology, and the creation of the FDA) please watch it. While a lot of the pioneering work has already been done, there is still a lot to do to keep our families safe and this documentary gives good context about how science used to be ridiculed and manufacturers of products need regulation.
- I do this work as an independent consumer goods advocate. Companies DON’T LIKE ME, because I have no skin in the game (no conflicts of interest, no contingent sources of funding, no political considerations/pressures, etc.) and therefore nothing preventing me from reporting the truth. As a result, my legal battles rage on (I am constantly assaulted by online trolls of all stripes — industry reps, sellers and collectors who feel threatened; plenty of outraged cynics and a few sincere skeptics who believe I am “fear-mongering” for “attention” or “enrichment” (!); or that I am “some dumb chick with an instrument she obviously has no idea how to use” (I am trained and certified, as well as quite experienced in the use of the instrument), and have a team of lawyers working to defend my advocacy work). While most of my attorneys are working pro-bono, two key members of my 7-member attorney team are not — and your contributions help me to make payments to them [as well as to cover the cost of periodically renting the XRF instrument so that I continue this testing]. Please consider donating in support of my advocacy HERE (via PayPal) or HERE (via GoFundMe) – even $10 or $25 makes a huge difference! … and if you know any organization or individual that might be in a position to help me with my legal fees in a more significant way, please let me know. [Right now I am working to cover a legal bill of nearly $25,000.]
Thank you for reading. Photos of the actual product I tested are below.