NZ study finds detectable levels of heavy metals in ‘low cost’ lipsticks

By Michelle Yeomans

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union

NZ study finds detectable levels of heavy metals in ‘low cost’ lipsticks
New Zealand’s Ministry of Health have found detectable levels of leachable cadmium, chromium and lead in lipsticks sold at discount stores in a study that also revealed low cost hair dyes potentially breaching amended regulation.

The research focused on the presence of selected heavy metals in 373 lipsticks. Of those, 33 were found to have significant levels of metal, 11 samples (3.06 per cent) contained leachable cadmium, 3 (0.84 per cent) featured leachable chromium and 19 (5.29 per cent) contained leachable lead.

Trace levels

According to the study, trace levels of these metals are acceptable under the Cosmetic Products Group Standard.

However, because the levels are not quantified, the team had to use the maximum permissible leachable levels under the HSNO Graphic Materials Group Standard 2009 for comparison as those levels provided public health protection.

Leachable metal levels that exceeded the detection limits were then assessed against the tolerable daily intake for that metal. A TDI is the amount that can be eaten everyday over a person’s lifetime, with no significant health risk.

In addition, all colour samples where cadmium, chromium and lead were detected were confirmed to be below the levels permitted in crayons, inks and water colours used by children.


The purpose of this study was to investigate claims that certain brands of cosmetic products sold at discount stores were non-compliant with the Cosmetics Products Group Standard (as amended 1 November 2010) under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO Act).

Total compositions of selected heavy metals were excluded as the Ministry considers only the leachable components of these selected heavy metals to be of public health significance.


Regulations are based on the European Union’s Cosmetics Directive and reviewed annually to take into account changes made to the EU Directive as well as consideration of any issues in comparable jurisdictions such as the US, Canada and Australia and issues raised by interested parties.

All heavy metals are prohibited for use in cosmetics, although the presence of traces is allowed if it is technically unavoidable in good manufacturing practice, as per the Cosmetic Products Group Standard.

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