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For Immediate Release: June 26th, 2008
Contact:  Stacy Malkan, 510-848-5701, smalkan@hcwh.org

Beauty Industry Lobbies to Keep Lead in Lipstick

California lead bill dies despite major support from women’s groups; Canadian tests find more lead in lipstick

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. -- After passing the full California Senate, a bill to ban lead in lipstick was narrowly defeated in the Assembly Health Committee this week under intense lobby pressure from the cosmetics industry.

Lobbyists and top executives from major corporations including Estee Lauder, Revlon and Johnson & Johnson’s swarmed the State Capitol on Tuesday to kill Senate Bill 1712, sponsored by Sen. Carole Migden (D-San Francisco). The bill would have required companies to make lipstick with the lowest possible amount of lead, a proven neurotoxin that can cause learning problems and is also linked to infertility and miscarriage.  

Product tests conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in October found lead in 61% of lipsticks tested, at levels ranging up to .65 parts per million (ppm). Thirty nine percent of the lipsticks tested had no detectable lead levels, and would have met the threshold established by the bill.

“Clearly the beauty industry does not want to be bothered with removing lead from lipstick. Even though many companies are already making lead-free lipstick, the industry is claiming they can’t do better, and that it is fine for millions of women to rub a little bit of lead on their lips every day. It’s a sad commentary on the priorities of the beauty industry,” said Stacy Malkan, spokesperson for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

The product tests conducted by Campaign for Safe Cosmetics are, to date, the largest publicly available study about the presence of lead in lipstick. Ten months ago, the US Food and Drug Administration promised to look into the issue, but the agency has released no information to the public. Health Canada, however, has already released its own study of lead in lipstick, with results even worse than the US tests:  21 out of 26 lipsticks tested by Health Canada contained lead ranging from .07 to .84 ppm, with one product registering an alarmingly high lead level of 6.3 ppm. The agency did not release brand names.

It is currently legal in the United States for lipstick and other beauty products to contain unlimited amounts of lead. At least 40 women’s groups wrote in support of California Senate Bill 1712, an unusually high level of support for a state bill. Advocates for the bill are already planning to bring the bill back to the California legislature next year.

For more information about lead in lipstick, see A Poison Kiss: The Problem of Lead in Lipstick.

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Founding members of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics include: Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, Breast Cancer Fund, Clean Water Fund, Commonweal, Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, National Black Environmental Justice Network, National Environmental Trust and Women's Voices for the Earth.