Comments: False. This fear-mongering email is long on misinformation and short on verified facts. Laboratory tests have shown that some name-brand lipsticks sold in the U.S. do contain trace amounts of lead from the dyes used in their manufacture, but the lead content of these coloring agents is strictly controlled by the Food & Drug Administration to meet currently accepted safety standards and pose no serious health threat, according to a statement from the American Cancer Society.
Moreover, the message is both inaccurate and misleading when it implies that cancer is the main health hazard posed by lead exposure. Though it is indeed listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a probable human carcinogen, lead has other, more direct health effects — including brain damage, nerve disorders and reproductive problems — that are far more worrisome.
Gold ring test will not detect lead in lipstick
The handy home test for lead in lipstick touted in the email is bogus. Certain metals, including gold, may leave a dark streak when scratched on various surfaces, but this is an artifact of the metals themselves, not an indicator of a chemical reaction with lead or any other substance.
For accurate information on known and suspected health hazards associated with cosmetic products and ingredients, see the Cosmetics section of the FDA Website.
Update: A new version of this message circulating since September 2006 contains the additional claim that the material was authored by a Dr. Nahid Neman of the breast cancer unit of Mt. Sinai Hospital in Toronto. No such person exists.
March 2006 statement from Cancer Research U.K.:
The email appears to be one of the many hoax emails claiming that a variety of everyday products can cause cancer. We’ve had deodorant, shampoo, washing up liquid and now lipstick. None of these claims are true and just spread alarm unnecessarily.
December 2005 statement from the American Cancer Society:
In May 2003, an email began making the rounds claiming that many of the most popular lipsticks on the market contain lead and will cause cancer. The email then offers a way to test lipsticks to see if they have lead.
A search of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Web site finds that lead content of coloring agents used in lipstick is regulated by that agency, and that the levels permitted are not a health problem.