If you're going to be on either end of a kiss this Valentine's Day, you might want to consider smooching bare-lipped. Most lipstick contains lead.
Lead has been banned in paint since 1978 because of its toxicity at low levels, but it still shows up in small amounts in some of the best-selling lipstick brands.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which did an analysis of a study of lead in lipstick conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, wants consumers to know that most of the 400 different lipsticks tested were positive for the substance.
"Recognizing that there is no safe level of lead exposure, we need to be protecting women and children from all levels of exposure," said Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the campaign—a non-profit coalition of environmental- and cancer-prevention groups.
Malkan's group wants the FDA to set a limit for how much lead lipstick can contain and to study whether there are any dangers to having the substance applied to human lips, particularly the lips of children and pregnant women. "We know that ingestion of lipstick happens. It gets into our bodies," she said, noting that lead accumulates in people.
The group said that five of the nine lipstick brands with the most lead are sold by L'Oreal, the world's largest cosmetics maker.
L'Oreal's "Color Sensational" Pink Petal had the most lead of any lipstick tested at 7.19 parts per million. By comparison, children's products sold in the U.S. are forbidden to have more than 100 parts per million of lead.
"The FDA's independent study, which will be published in the May/June 2012 issue of the Journal of Cosmetic Science, confirms that lipsticks pose no safety concerns for the millions of women who use them daily," L'Oreal said in a statement sent to Reuters. "The lead levels detected by the FDA in the study are also within the limits recommended by global public health authorities for cosmetics, including lipstick."
The FDA, for its part, agreed there is no cause for alarm.
"The FDA did not find high levels of lead in lipstick," FDA spokeswoman Tamara Ward said. "We developed and tested a method for measuring lead in lipstick and did not find levels that would raise health concerns."
Still, Malkan said the government should take some more steps to ensure the safety of those who use lipstick. An advisory committee to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has taken a position that there is no safe level of lead for children. So, why asked Malkan should it be OK for their to be lead in lipstick? And, in particular, for certain brands to have more than others?
"There are no safety standards," Malkan said.
So, if you're still lead conscious, consider how you'll handle your lips and those you'll be sharing them with this Valentine's Day.