Friday, October 19, 2007

Kiss Kiss, You're Dead

Remember when you were a kid and you were afraid to go to sleep at night because you were sure, just sure, that within that cavernous space under your bed lurked a hideous monster lusting to make you a tasty mid evening treat just as soon as you escaped to sleepy-bye land? Or that those creaky noises you heard in the hallway outside your bedroom were the spectral footsteps of long-dead former denizens biding their time until they could suck the life out of your quivering pajama-clad body?

Then you grew up. And realized that there was nothing lurking under your bed except perhaps some dust balls and a few misplaced Barbies or G.I. Joes and that those footsteps outside your room were simply the noises of a house settling as the night air cooled. You came to realize all that because your rational faculties were developing. In other words, you were coming out of the Dark Ages that is childhood and into the Enlightenment of adulthood.

Funny thing, though, many adults still hold onto their myths and their hysterias as tightly and closed mindedly as they did when they were children. And our media, government, and so-called consumer advocate groups just love to feed that hysteria. The result being that behind every dark skinned fellow airplane passenger there lurks a bomb-toting terrorist, behind every block headed-dog, a child chomping beast, etc., etc., into infinity and beyond.

This is the latest frenzy:

For years, an organization called the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has made it their job to ferret out the chemical boogie men lurking within our lotions, eyeliners, and lipsticks. Their latest findings? Unsafe amounts of lead in our lipsticks. Not all of them, mind you, just 33. They don't know about the rest because you know what? They admit they simply cannot test them all.

So how safe is unsafe? Well, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics' report uses as their baseline, and I shit you not, the amount of lead found in candy. That's because in order to keep the kiddies (and junkies like Moi) safe, the FDA has placed an allowable limit of lead in candy at .01 ppm. More than half (61 percent) of these 33 lipsticks tested contained detectable levels of lead, with levels ranging from 0.03 to 0.65 parts per million.

But then the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics goes on to state that in their professional opinion, NO AMOUNT of lead in any quantity is safe. So, uh, that would mean NO AMOUNT of candy is safe either, right? The report doesn't touch that with a ten foot pole.

Reading all this led Moi to ask the following:

1. The report's assumption of danger relies on the assumption that women ingest lipstick like it were candy. Which simply isn't true. I mean, yuck! I'm willing to bet that your average child is exposed to more lead during this upcoming holiday than I'm ever likely to be exposed to via my lipstick, despite a lifelong, die hard devotion to its use. And, again, no one's suggesting we reformulate candy . . .

2. Further, the report's assumption of danger relies on the assumption that lead molecules are small enough to penetrate the layers of our skin with regularity. Which simply isn't true. Otherwise, we'd all be long dead and gone from the way higher amounts of lead we're exposed to on a daily basis when we touch a myriad other lead-laden substances.

3. It would seem to me (Pirate?) that we're exposed to more lead by working in our offices and sleeping in our homes, hell, even walking outside or drinking municipal tap water. So wouldn't it behoove us to regularly test our paint, soil, and drinking water? Oh, yeah, we DO.

4. Why didn't the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics do a really real scientific study? I.e. take blood samples from x number of women who have regularly worn lipstick for, say, the past ten years and blood samples from the same x number of those who have not? Then test both groups' blood for lead, and, voila, compare the differences? Perhaps it's because such a test most likely wouldn't show a statistically significant difference between the two groups.

Bottom line question? Why is a consumer advocacy group pedaling misinformation? Is it deliberate? Or is it simply bad science?

The clue lies within their very own Web site:

Personal care products like shampoo, conditioner, after shave, lotion and makeup are not regulated by the FDA or any other government agency. It is perfectly legal and very common for companies to use ingredients that are known or suspected to be carcinogens, mutagens or reproductive toxins in the their products. (Not true. the FDA does not regulate what a cosmetic company can claim about their product. But they do set limits as to what is safe to put in them. In fact, there is a very effective sunscreen that has been used in Europe for years that the FDA has yet to approve for use here in this country.)

We are asking cosmetics and personal care products companies to sign the Compact for Safe Cosmetics (also known as the Compact for the Global Production of Safer Health and Beauty Products), a pledge to remove toxic chemicals and replace them with safer alternatives in every market they serve. (What are these alternatives? By whom are they manufactured? The site doesn't specify. And if you're thinking, no, not more chemicals, the advocacy groups wants us to use natural products, well, natural doesn't necessarily mean safe. Poison ivy is natural, but I don't want it in my moisturizer. And safer according to whom? The FDA? Again, the site doesn't specify.)

Ah, here's the clincher: The Campaign works with endorsing organizations and individuals so that together we can ramp up the pressure on companies that have not signed the Compact and continue to sell us toxic products, including Estee Lauder, L’Oreal, Avon and many others. Our founding organizations also work closely with other allies to reform the chemical policies that allow for toxic ingredients in consumer products in the first place.

Sigh. It seems that behind every motive, and no matter which side of the Party Line it falls, lies one thing and one thing only: $$$.


Doris Rose said...

Excellent work Moi, well done. We live in a society that has become -Recently (read past 7yrs) more and more fear driven. We seem to thrive on adrenalin-rush-headlines and statistics...gah.
My medical two cents is this: constant stress depletes vital nutrients=decreased immune function=chronic illness, decreased functionality and death...or insanity.period.
Rx:drink coffee, read blogs and books, listen to music-do what makes your heart happy.

Smalkan said...

1. According to the cosmetics industry itself, women "inadvertently eat about four pounds of lipstick in a lifetime." (Glamour magazine).

2. Yes lipstick wears off, where does it go? Into our mouths via licking our lips or eating food (biting an apple for instance).

3. True, we are exposed to lead from many different sources, which is why lead doesn't also need to be in lipstick! According to the CDC, there is no safe level of lead exposure -- all sources should be avoided.

4. Do you really think we should spend 10 years testing women's blood before taking the common-sense step of getting the lead out of lipstick??

My bottom line question: Why is Bite the Apple being an apologist for billion dollar cosmetics companies that ought to be getting the lead out of expensive lipstick, instead of making lame excuses like "there's more lead in water"? Even Mattel didn't try that dumb line!

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

I fully agree with the take that we have become a fear based people rather than science based. Why do people fear science? It's downright depressing.

I think it's a load of crap that there isn't more stringent testing in cosmetics - lead in my lipstick is a very valid concern. Where is their testing? Why are they just finding it now? F*ckers.

Did you know that many cosmetic pigments have contact with heavy metal residue...unless you crush up some of those rare amazon jungle bugs and use them as your pigment. My point? The cosmetic safety thing is truly valid. Why are they finally discussing it?

They can't really test women who wear lipstick vs. non wearers - because in 10 year who knows where your lead content came from. Was it your tap water? was it the paint in your house? Was it your mattel toys?

The water that leaves the water treatment plant has been tested - but then it goes through the pipe into your house. Did you know that the solder on the copper pipes leading into your house are a source of lead? That's why I use a filter for my drinking water.

Personal safety is based on us - nobody keeps us safe but ourselves. We can hide under the bed, or we can do our homework.

I feel forced to agree with Smalkan - only because I know what lead can do to a person and it's pretty serious stuff.

moi said...

I am not an apologist for the cosmetics industry. Don't work for 'em, don't own any of their stock, don't care if any of them succeed or fail.

Nor do I mean any disrespect to a bona fide environmental scientist who knows way more than I do just how dangerous lead is. But I do not dispute its dangers, nor am I against regulating any of the dozens of other toxic substances that pose real, measurable dangers to the public health.

My post is about fear and crap science, not about whether or not lead is dangerous. It’s about the tendency of this so-called “expert” organization – and others like them – to conduct so-called scientific studies that lead to nothing more than, as Doris Rose so aptly calls them, adrenalin-rush headlines.

Why not test lead levels in long term users (smalken, I don’t mean a 10 year long test) versus non users? Most women of a certain demographic and economic status lead pretty similar lives. And if users are indeed ingesting measurable levels of lipstick on a regular basis, then it naturally follows we should see measurable levels of lead in their bloodstream versus non ingesters.

That would be the logical thing to do. But this “study” isn’t about logic. It’s about force and fear, about testing a small portion of products and using those findings to make blanket, hot button announcements to the media (not to the FDA who should be their real target), while never explaining things like:

Did they only find lead in lipsticks using certain dyes?

Are those dyes natural or manmade?

Is there a possibility the lead levels came not from the ingredients, but from the manufacturing process or the casing ingredients?

Etc., etc. All the things a real scientific study would test for.

And look at the levels: Two thirds had levels between .03 (way below what is even considered acceptable for children’s candy!) and .6ppm. I for one would like to know what the level of danger is between .03 and .6. Exponential or?

And what exactly are these alternatives the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics keeps pushing? Who manufactures them? Are they safe? Has the FDA tested and approved them? None of this information is given. Who are these allies they’re partnered with? The FDA? The EPA? Or other organizations with similarly hidden motives?

If they are a group made up of very different medical and consumer advocates, why aren’t they going after ALL companies whose products contain unacceptable levels of lead and/or other levels of toxins? Like the producers of Sweet Tarts? Like municipal water co-ops? Like airlines and auto manufacturers?

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

And I could not agree with you more on many counts.

I think the thing I find irritating about the "campaign" is the way they treat the reader as a dummy. I refuse to mention their lack of colour sense on the website...

I have lots of research to forward you to help you answer some questions - too much for my little square reply space.

Smalkan said...

FDA doesn't test or require testing of any cosmetic products or cosmetic ingredients before they go on the shelves. So the only way for consumers to know if lipstick or other cosmetics contain lead is to send them to a lab (at a cost of $150 per lead test). Unfortunately, the system for cosmetics safety in this country is "trust the companies." So I do think it's relevant to spot check products and notify consumers that some companies (L'Oreal) apparently couldn't care less that their products contain higher amounts of lead. True, we don't know how the lead got in there: could be contamination from manufacturing or from containers, but however it got in there, it's clear companies can make lead-free red lipstick, so that's what they should all should be doing. Aren't we worth it??

moi said...

Pirate, thanks for the links. Lots of good stuff there to investigate. complete lack of colour sense – hee!

Smalken, yes we're worth it :o). We ingest, wear, breathe a lot of substances through the course of our daily lives. Our only defense is untainted info so we can make personal decisions about our own safety. I want to be able to distinguish between real danger versus hysteria that wastes my time. And the way this campaign was and continues to be put together is hysterical.

In the past six years, hysteria has become an increasingly popular – and, sadly, effective – tool of disseminating information. That's what my post is about. We seem incapable today of taking a deep breath, backing off, and looking at things logically before we act. Instead, we're supposed to take serious as a heart attack every red alert headline that comes down the pike. I'm sick of it.

Sorry 'bout the can o' worms, folks. Next week I'll be back to posting about Posh's boob job.

Doris Rose said...

my,my,my.Can'o'Worms indeed. Lipstick. Let's go back to the boogey man under the bed-It is soo easy to catch the hysteria-bug.
I wish there was as much energy infused into global climate change.
Moi for Attorney General!

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

oh stop. commercial politics is a very serious issue, it's OK that you have opened large can of worms.

Highly interesting.

Jenny said...

can I add that I don't even want to think about the animal testing that was done to come to these conclusions. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go fresh up my lead lipstick.

Meghan said...

I was putting on lipstick when my husband yelled this information (that he'd just gleaned off of CNN) to me in the bathroom.

I shit you not.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to know.

Anonymous said...

Thanks :)
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