Michele’s mystery: Recent articles in the news claim Mercury in mascaras eyeliners, and other beauty products cause neurological damage. What is the Beauty Brains take on this? Do you know which brands are the offenders?
Left Brain’s metallic remarks:
With all the chemical scares propagated by fear-mongering, non-science based groups like the Environmental Working Group and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, it’s a wonder anyone still buys cosmetics. It’s also not surprising that legislators react by creating useless laws that are not likely to have a real impact on our health.
Last month’s scare chemical was lead in your lipstick. This month, it’s mercury in your mascara. Lawmakers in the great state of Minnesota banned it from mascara, skin-lightening creams and eye liners . Great news right? No news really. Read on.
What are the mercury regulations
I say no news because mercury was banned in cosmetics in the US back in 1974. According to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) written and enforced by the FDA, mercury is not allowed in cosmetics in levels of more than 1 part per million except for products used around the eye. For these, the limit is 65 part per million and only if it’s used
…as a preservative, and there is no effective and safe nonmercurial substitute preservative available for use in such cosmetic.
Back in 1974 there were no alternative preservatives against pseudomonas (a little microbe that can wreak havoc on your health), but now there are mercury-free preservatives. No legitimate cosmetic manufacturer would use a mercury based one.
Which brands are offenders? None that I know about. If you are buying your product from reputable distributors then this will never be a problem.
Are mascaras safer?
In the AP article, the reporter makes the claim that
“the quest for thicker lashes…should get safer in Minnesota…”
Really? I’m not sure how. Mercury preservatives haven’t been used in mascaras for over 15 years. Additionally, there is no evidence that the trace amount that used to be used was ever dangerous in the first place. The original FDA guidelines were established after years of testing. Nothing has changed that would invalidate that testing.
The end of the news report is most telling about the motivation of the legislation.
The new law is intended as a warning to cosmetics manufacturers not to use mercury, said John Gilkeson, with the state Pollution Control Agency’s toxics reduction program. Enforcement will happen mainly when consumers complain.
How exactly is a consumer going to know if there is mercury in their mascara?
How many of you have mass spectrometers in your home or office?
And I wonder why Minnesota hasn’t banned mercury from fish. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, edible fish are allowed to have 1 part per million of mercury. If legislators were really concerned about people’s health, why haven’t they moved to ban mercury from food? This is a much more significant problem.
Beauty Brains bottom line
Mercury exposure is clearly bad and you should avoid it wherever you can. Gone are the days when high school students could break thermometers and roll little blobs of shiny mercury in their hands.
However, laws like these will not make you safer and could actually make you less safe as manufacturers try other, less tested chemicals to preserve your cosmetics. For most people, this is a non-issue because legitimate cosmetic makers don’t use mercury preservatives.
Kudos to the Minnesota legislature. They’ve passed a law that addresses a non-existent problem and provides no practical process for enforcing it. Way to go! I feel safer already. How about you?
*For more on chemicals that are banned in cosmetics by the FDA see the statement on their webpage. Who says the FDA doesn’t regulate the cosmetic industry?