223 lip articles (representing 55 brands) were purchased in 15 European Union Member States and analysed for lead content. Various lip products (lipsticks and lip glosses), shades (red, brown, purple and pink) and price ranges (3 categories) were investigated. The analytical method employed a microwave-assisted acid digestion followed by ICP-MS determination. The results revealed that 49 samples (22%) contained lead at a level higher than 1 mg/kg, representing 31% of the tested lipsticks and 4% of the lip glosses. On average, the lead content found in lipsticks (0.75 mg/kg) was nearly double that found in lip glosses (0.38 mg/kg) and this difference was judged statistically significant at 95% probability. Apart from brown, statistically significant higher levels of lead were also found when comparing the average lead contents in lipsticks and lip glosses of the same shade: pink (0.81 and 0.38 mg/kg), purple (0.88 and 0.37 mg/kg) and red (0.58 and 0.25 mg/kg).
The influence of price on lead content was studied on the two lip product types separately. In the case of lip glosses no differences were found. In the case of lipsticks, the more expensive items (price category III) contained a significantly lower quantity of lead in comparison to the cheapest articles (price category I). The lipsticks containing the highest levels of lead belonged to the price category II.
In all cases, however, the actual lead concentration measured in the finished products is far below the recommended limits for Germany (20 mg/kg) or Canada (10 mg/kg). The outcome of this work delivers information about the current situation on the European market and provides information to policy-makers about the quantities of lead in lip articles and technically achievable levels.
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