US research shows may leading brands of lipstick contain dangerously high levels of lead.
Women are being warned about using some lipsticks after concerns were raised several big-name brands could contain lead.
The warnings come in the wake of last week's ruling that a class action in the United States against luxury goods giant LVMH - the manufacturer of Dior Addict Positive Red lipstick, which has been found to contain lead - could proceed.
The blood-red Dior lipstick was among dozens of lipsticks found to contain lead, after US lobby group Campaign for Safe Cosmetics commissioned an independent laboratory to test lead levels in 33 brand-name lipsticks.
The results, made public in a report last October, revealed 61 percent of the lipsticks tested had detectable lead levels. One-third of the lipsticks exceeded the US Food and Drug Administration's accepted level of lead (0.1 parts per million) for products that are ingested. The Dior lipstick was found to contain 0.21ppm of lead.
Peter Dingle, an environmental toxicologist from Perth-based Murdoch University and author of the Dangerous Beauty booklet, has called for regulatory change to ban lead from cosmetic products to protect consumer health.
"It is ridiculous that we have any lead in our cosmetics at all," he said. "For the last 50 years we have campaigned to get lead out of everything and here we are putting it in lipstick. It's crazy."
Mr Dingle says companies which claim the levels of lead in their products are too low to cause harm are talking nonsense.
"We've known for 200 years that lead is toxic and the research now is showing that lead, even at the absolute lowest concentration, still has a toxic effect on our body … not to mention the cumulative effect it could have."
Exposure to lead can result in intellectual and behavioural problems and has also been linked to kidney damage, infertility and miscarriage, among other adverse health affects. It has been estimated that the average woman ingests about 4.5kilograms of lipstick in a lifetime.
The Australian Government's industrial chemical watchdog, the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme said, in a statement on Friday, it was aware of "ongoing concerns about the presence of lead in cosmetics" but said investigations to date had not identified any cosmetic products containing lead, besides known uses as hair colourants.
It would not confirm whether it would investigate the claims being made that the Dior Addict Positive Red lipstick contains unsafe levels of lead.
(Agencies via China Daily July 24,2008)