Ladies, take a note. The cosmetics you use may contain lead!
Cosmetics, generally known as makeup care products, are used to restore and enhance the appearance of the human body, particularly the face. But recent studies from Bangladesh and India have reported moderate to high amounts of lead in many cosmetics, including lipsticks and religious powders. Dermal exposure to lead does not pose a risk; however, mouth-to-fingers exposure contaminated by the way of touching the skin poses a risk.
Other than lipstick, kajal, kohl, and surma are extensively used traditional eye cosmetics in South Asian countries. In fact, putting black makeup around babies' eyes is a common tradition where parents think these eyeliners might protect the eyes or improve sight. These cosmetics contain galena (lead sulphide) as one of the main components and a minimum of lead oxide. Careless application of kajal, eye rubbing, and lacrimation may cause the absorption of lead through the conjunctiva.
Vermilion (traditionally known as sindoor) is a brilliant scarlet powder used during Hindu religious and cultural ceremonies. Some manufacturers use lead tetroxide (Pb3O4) to give sindoor a distinctive red colour. The orange or red pigment is used on both children and adults and is intended for topical use only. There are many manufacturers of sindoor, and not all products labelled sindoor contain lead. Lead may be added as a red pigment.
Recognising that there is no safe level of lead exposure, we need to protect women and children from all levels of exposure. If there is a product that could be contaminated with lead, it is in the public's best interest. There is a possibility of spreading through ingestion or inhalation.
So, ladies, if you are still lead-conscious, consider how you will handle your lips. Next time you pick up that innocuous-looking colour stick from the dressing table, think twice.
The writer is a public health professional.