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Alert over levels of lead in children's cosmetics

HIGH levels of lead have been found in several leading brands of children's cosmetics in the past two years, the Irish Independent can reveal.

As many as 24 alerts had to be issued by the Department of Health to recall certain contaminated batches of lipgloss, eyeshadows and lipstick used as play make-up by children.

Batches of children's cosmetics removed from sale due to lead content include some products made by the brands Girlz, Star Jeans, Girls World and Tracey 'Happy Hour' Glamour.

Lead exposure early in life can lead to hyperactivity, impulsive behaviour, IQ deficits, reduced school performance, aggression and delinquent symptoms.

It can also affect fertility, including increasing the risk of miscarriage and reducing sperm quality. Early-life lead exposure has been linked to an increased risk for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.


The department confirmed 11 of the alerts were issued after the tests for lead were carried out by public analyst laboratories.

The high number of lead-contamination alerts came as a report from one of the Health Service Executive's (HSE) main laboratories warned of potential lead dangers from children's cosmetics imported from China and sold in discount stores.

One set of tests revealed that lead levels in children's cosmetics bought in discount stores were 500 times higher than the recommended limit.

The findings are disclosed in the 2008 annual report of the HSE's public analyst's laboratory in the western region, which, along with the Cork counterpart, is the national centre for cosmetic testing.

The report said the level of risk was unknown because of the lack of information about the exact compound or particle size of the lead present.

The report of the HSE West laboratory warned: "The quality of many cheaper-brand, low-cost cosmetics entering the country from China in particular is unsatisfactory." The report said the concern also extended to cosmetics used by adult women.

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Ireland has now adopted, on an interim basis, the 20mg/kg lead limit of other European countries. Lead compounds should not be present in cosmetics unless in traces that are technically unavoidable in manufacturing and not liable to cause damage to human health.

However, tests on one set of children's cosmetics showed it had lead concentrations as high as 10,000mg/kg.

The report revealed that last year 103 samples (444 components) of low-priced, discount-store cosmetics purchased in the West were examined.

It found 29 of the 444 components tested exceeded the lead limit of 20mg/kg.The majority contained less than 5mg/kg.

The results showed that cosmetics manufacturers can and generally do achieve lead levels of less than 5mg/kg2 and this could be regarded as the appropriate upper limit, the report said.

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