EcoWaste Coalition Pushes for Women’s Right to Non-Toxic Cosmetics, Slams Sale of Cheap but Lead-Contaminated Lipsticks

8 March 2021, Quezon City.  The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition today urged the authorities to crack down on the smuggling of adulterated and counterfeit cosmetics to protect women consumers against the marketing of such products that are hazardous to their health, and also to the environment.

Following its recent exposé on the online trade of mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics, the group, coinciding with the celebration of the International Women’s Day, brought to public notice the sale of unauthorized lipsticks contaminated with lead, which, like mercury, is a neurological and reproductive toxin.

“Women’s bodies have no use for the hazardous substances lurking inside some lipstick tubes that can bring about neurological problems, hormonal imbalances, reproductive abnormalities and other diseases with frequent use.  The authorities should crack down on the importers, distributors and retailers of these poison lipsticks from abroad.  Lead and other toxic metals have no place in cosmetics and other consumer products,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

The EcoWaste Coalition put consumers on full alert after procuring yesterday 30 samples of lipsticks costing P25 to P50 each from retailers at Divisoria, 168 and 999 Shopping Malls in Manila, which the group screened for heavy metals using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

Lead concentrations from 137 to a whopping 40,000 parts per million (ppm) were detected in 16 of the 30 samples, which are way in excess of the 20 ppm limit under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive for lead as a contaminant in cosmetic products.

“Lead, a cumulative toxicant, in the analyzed lipsticks can build up in the body over time with their frequent use,” said Dizon who emphasized “there is no safe level for lead exposure.”

A Qianxiu Hello Kitty Lipstick (#01, black canister) was found to contain 40,000 ppm of lead, as well as 2,002 ppm of arsenic, 370 ppm of cadmium and 140 ppm of mercury.  Like the other analyzed samples containing lead and other toxic metals, Qianxiu is not notified with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). 
A Qianxiu Panda Lipstick (#06, black and white canister) had 38,000 ppm limit, a Qianxiu Hello Kitty Lipstick (#02 and #07, pink canister) had 22,000 and 20,000 ppm, Koko Kollection (#09, black canister) had 9,564 ppm, and a counterfeit MAC Zac Posen (Rudy Woo #12, red canister) had 9,470 ppm of lead.  

Arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury are among the “10 chemicals of major public health concern” listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) requiring action by the authorities to safeguard the health of children, women of reproductive age, and workers.

“Health problems through chronic ingestion of high level of lead in lipsticks may manifest as neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal problems,” the FDA said in a previous advisory on buying unnotified lipsticks in the market, warning that “lead easily crosses the placenta, and pregnant women should pay particular attention to the different sources of lead exposure.”

Strengthened action by the national and local governmental authorities, supported by informed and vigilant consumers, will protect the health of women and the general public, as well as the environment, from the hazardous chemicals present in cosmetics and other consumer products, the EcoWaste Coalition concluded.