Monday, April 23, 2012

My health insurance provider gives me a lesson on lead in cosmetics


A suburban greenmom is soooo relieved to hear from her health insurance provider that the presence of lead in cosmetics is nothing to worry about, and how silly all the fuss is…
photo from The Daily Green
Having really resonated with Emerald Apron's post about lead in lipstick, my attention was immediately caught when I got a link to this article from Humana, my current health insurance provider.

Have a seat, clear a spot on your desk on which to bang your head about a dozen times (you can even pad the spot with a pillow or something if that’s how you roll), and click over there. Then come back. Okay, did you read it? Bang your head a few times?

(Sarcastic rant begins here.)

I for one was very relieved to learn the truth about lead: “In small amounts, lead is a fairly low threat. It's a naturally occurring heavy metal that's mined from the earth…” Naturally occurring. Check. Because we all know that we have nothing to fear from “natural” stuff. And it’s a really good thing that “because lead is found in so many things, it can build up in our bodies. It's most dangerous when it's eaten or inhaled in dust form…” This relieved me immensely—because no way anything like lipstick would ever be ingested. Right? Oh, wait…

The logic of lead in lipstick is also quite a relief to discover, because I’m clearly not smart enough to have thought of this myself: “Makeup is, basically, paint for the face.” Ooohhhhh! Now I get it! “And as many of us know, lead was used in paint until very recently. In fact, it's only been since 1978 that we've been able to enjoy lead-free paints and other products. That's when the FDA made lead in paint illegal.” So, it’s a good thing lead in paint is illegal, although it’s really not important that we get it out of the products that actually adhere to our skin, newly applied daily. Wait. Hang on. Maybe I’m not smart enough to figure this out, because that just doesn’t make sense to me…

(Also glad they thought to tell me that “Lead was also in ‘regular’ gasoline. That's why the gas we buy today is called ‘unleaded.’” ‘Cuz I never would have figured that out either, and calling it to my attention makes all the difference in the world.)

Fortunately, the article tells us, “So while there are very small amounts of lead in the dyes that are used to color lipstick, the amounts are within the limits allowed by the FDA.” Which is great, because the FDA is so conservative in making sure nothing’s approved unless there’s pretty good evidence it really is safe. Like BPA. And GMO’s. And rbGH. So I’m sure that previous bit about lead building up in the body over time has been taken into account when considering how much lead a person might ingest in, say 20 years of putting on lipstick every day…added to other sources of lead and/or other heavy metals that build up in the body…and other sources of contamination in our environment and food pretty much all the time. It’s surely safe, right? The FDA says so. So, to sum up: my health insurance company has just sent me a note to reassure me that even though yes lead is poisonous, the fact that it’s in my cosmetics (or would be, if I used them) isn’t something I have any reason to worry about, because it's a very small and safe amount of the poison.

*headdesk* *headdesk* *headdesk*

--Jenn the Greenmom with a headache

1 comment:

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

This reminds me of when I call toy companies to ask questions about materials and they say "our products meet or exceed all U.S. standards." And I'm thinking, "Oh really? You're not selling illegal toys? Thank you so much for that useful information!" A lot of companies haven't figured out yet that many of us do not find "approved by the FDA" to be at all reassuring.

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