The group, Environmental Defence has released a study, which they say reveals that heavy metals such as lead, arsenic and cadmium exceeding safe limits are used in makeup.

The group carried out lab tests of the products in six Canadian women’s makeup bags, each of the 49 products was found to be contaminated.

Items tested included foundations, concealers, powders, blushes and bronzers, mascaras, eyeliners, eyeshadows, lipsticks and lip glosses.

The tests found that 100% of products tested contained nickel, 96% contained lead, and 90% contained beryllium.

At least one of the products tested contained seven of the eight metals of concern (arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, beryllium, nickel, selenium, and thallium).

On average, products contained four of these eight metals.

Environmental Defence executive director, Dr Rick Smith, said: “Canadians deserve to know what is in their cosmetics.

“Given the choice, we think most consumers would not put arsenic or lead on their lips and faces.”

In Canada, all of these heavy metals are banned from being intentionally added to cosmetics but, Environmental Defence says, contaminants can find their way into the end product via the raw ingredients or as by-products of the manufacturing process.

As unintentional contaminants are classed as ‘impurities’ they are subject to less regulation and disclosure than intentional ingredients.

Environmental Defence is calling on the health authorities to improve and regulate these impurity limits.

Dr Smith said: “Canada should improve the guidelines on impurities in cosmetics so they better reflect what is truly feasible, then adopt them without delay”.

The organisation says there is some progress within the cosmetics industry. Some cosmetic companies are moving towards plant-based colorants and away from petroleum or coal tar-based colorants, to avoid product contamination with heavy metals.

Others are asking their suppliers to screen for contaminants and source the least contaminated ingredients possible.

Alison Brown

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