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Makeup Spooks U.S. Lawmaker

Toxics: Citing study, senator warns that metals in novelty cosmetics can pose danger to kids

by Britt E. Erickson
October 25, 2015 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 93, Issue 42

Photograph of kids dressed for halloween.
Credit: Shutterstock
Concerns about harmful metals in face paint grow.

Lipstick, eye glitter, face paint, and other costume makeup—often made in China—may contain hazardous chemicals such as lead, warns Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), referring to a study by a health activist group. The senator is urging the Food & Drug Administration to set a limit for lead in cosmetics and beef up enforcement of packaging regulations, which require manufacturers to list all ingredients in cosmetics.

“Traces of lead and other heavy metals have consistently been found in Halloween and costume makeup from other countries and poses a great threat to the health of our children, especially during the fall season,” Schumer says in an Oct. 18 letter to FDA Acting Commissioner Stephen Ostroff. Schumer cites a 2009 study by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a project of the Breast Cancer Fund, which found all 10 face paints it tested contained lead and six of the 10 had nickel, cobalt, or chromium.

Exposure to lead and other metals is associated with impaired cognitive ability. Health organizations around the world have concluded that there is no safe level of lead exposure, particularly for children whose brains are still developing.

Toxic chemicals such as lead in children’s face paint are a “scary thought,” Schumer riffs in the letter, adding that FDA should “unmask the ingredients that are often left off of the packaging.”

FDA acknowledges that face paints have caused problems such as skin rashes, but the agency has not investigated the dangers of heavy metals in these products.

Lead is banned in cosmetics sold in Canada and the European Union, but not in makeup sold in the U.S. “This lack of regulation means that many parents are exposing their young children, and even themselves, to products that contain harmful metals,” Schumer says.



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