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Contact Dermatitis. 2000 Jan;42(1):5-10.

Metals and arsenic in eye shadows.

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Consumer Agency and Ombudsman, Product Safety, Helsinki, Finland.


The regulations relating to cosmetic products give no limit values for toxic elements such as metals or arsenic occurring as impurities in cosmetic products. The present study of metals (lead, cobalt, nickel, chromium) and arsenic in eye shadows in 88 colors of 25 brands and 49 products provides a basis for assessing the safety of eye shadow. 66 out of 88 (75%) of the colors contained more than 5 ppm of at least one of the elements, and all 49 products contained more than one 1 ppm of at least 1 of the elements. In one color, the amount of all elements was less than 1 ppm. The highest levels of cobalt and nickel were 41 and 49 ppm, respectively. These levels were high enough to cause allergic symptoms in those previously sensitized. Furthermore, long-term exposure to such levels may probably sensitize. The concentrations of arsenic were extremely low, 2.3 ppm at most. The level of lead was less than 20 ppm in all products. Accordingly, the concentrations of arsenic and lead seemed to be safe. 9 colors had concentrations of water-soluble chromium exceeding 2 ppm, and a very high level, 318 ppm, was encountered in 1 case. The overall results indicate that eye-shadows probably have no significant systemic toxicological effects. The groups at greatest risk are those already sensitized to the allergenic elements. Such consumers will have difficulties in choosing suitable products, since these elements in the form of impurities are not declared in the list of ingredients. Manufacturers should demand certification that the raw materials they buy contain no toxic elements. Although some of the products studied were acceptable, many had excessive levels of the elements from the consumer's viewpoint.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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