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Letter to Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D., Commissioner of Food and Drug Administration


Location: Washington, DC

Senators John Kerry (D-Mass.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) wrote a letter to FDA Commissioner, Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach today, requesting a full investigation into lipstick products containing lead levels above the legal limit, as recently reported by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

The CSC report highlights the fact that this lack of oversight means consumers are directly ingesting lead each time they wear one of these lipstick products. The senators' letter asks the FDA to retest the lipsticks that raised red flags, and take immediate steps to reduce consumers' exposure to lead in lipstick and other cosmetics.

"Dangerous levels of lead in lipstick is the latest reminder that insufficient safeguards at the FDA pose real risks to everyday Americans. From the cosmetics store to the sun block parents count on to protect their children's skin, there has been a continuous flow of unnerving news in recent months about the FDA's clear lack of oversight and inspection. Washington is gambling with our health, whether we are aware of it or not. It's time for the FDA to start taking this responsibility more seriously."

"Toxic chemicals like lead do not belong in cosmetics such as lipstick that people may be exposed to everyday," Senator Barbara Boxer, Chairman Environment and Public Works Committee. "FDA should do everything in its power to get products with lead off the shelf."

"I was surprised to learn that lipsticks worn every day have been found to contain dangerous levels of lead. The Food and Drug Administration needs to fully investigate the potential health risks posed by lead in lipsticks. And federal guidelines may be needed to safeguard women's health and reduce the amount of lead in cosmetic products," U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein said.

The CSC points out that the FDA has not set a limit for lead in lipstick. High levels of lead are of particular concern to pregnant women, because high doses of lead can have significant impacts on the early brain development of babies and toddlers. Lead has been linked to learning and behavioral problems in children, such as reduced IQ, poorer school performance and aggression.

Below is the text of the letter:

November 19, 2007

Andrew C. von Eschenbach, M.D.
Commissioner of Food and Drugs
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
5600 Fishers Lane
Rockville, MD 20857

Dear Commissioner von Eschenbach:

We are writing to express our concern regarding a series of recent news articles highlighting elevated levels of lead in many lipstick products.

As you know, the FDA currently does not regulate lead in lipstick or other cosmetic products. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics recently conducted tests of 33 red lipsticks and found that 61% of the lipsticks contained lead at levels ranging from .02-.65 parts per million. One third of the tested products exceeded the FDA recommended limit for lead in candy, which represents the permitted lead ingestion level by children.

In response to these results, we request that FDA consider taking two actions to address lead levels in lipstick and other cosmetics:

1. FDA has indicated an interest in re-testing the same lipsticks tested by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. We encourage FDA to perform these tests on a wide range of other lipstick brands in a variety of colors, and to publicly report the results.

2. If the FDA reaches the same conclusions as the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, we respectfully encourage the FDA to take immediate action to reduce consumers' lead exposure to lipstick and other cosmetic products. The FDA should issue guidance to industry, establishing a recommended maximum level of lead in lipstick and other cosmetic products, set to correspond with the lowest detectable levels found in laboratory tests.

Thank you for your attention to this issue, and we look forward to a timely response to our concerns.


John F. Kerry
Barbara Boxer
Dianne Feinstein

CC: Linda Katz, Director, FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colors

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