Friday, October 25, 2013

Beauty Law: Mascara is Exempt from Mercury Ban at United Nations' Minamata Convention
On October 10, 2013, over 140 nations negotiated and signed a United Nations Minamata Convention pact designed to limit mercury use and emissions. As a result mercury mining, certain batteries, switch and delay units, and light bulbs were banned. Even certain soaps and cosmetics were banned but mascara was not; and Stacy Malkan, cofounder of the advocacy group Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, asks why. Malkan says women should not put something so toxic close to their eyeballs. 

Mascara is known to contain mercury but not enough to be pulled from store shelves. EnvironmentalandHealthNews.Org reports that although soaps and cosmetics containing more than 1 part per million of mercury will be banned by 2020, mascara and other cosmetics are exempt because of concern that there are no other safe alternatives. But Malkan, disagrees. She says that there is no reason that a known neurotoxin should be allowed in any of these products because most companies have already found alternatives, they just have not been using them.  Instead of using mercury, some major brands use phenoxyethanol, methylisothianzolinone, parabes and formaldehyde releasers, but such substitutes may not be benign. formaldehyde is a carcinogen for example, but none of the substitutes is as toxic as mercury. 

Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration allows mercury in eye cosmetics at a concentration of up to 65 parts per million. In fact, the FDA does not require ingredients that comprise less than 1 percent of a cosmetic product to be divulged on the label, so if you did not know, you would never know from reading the label.

But is a little mercury in mascara bad? Scientific research proves the helpful use of mercury. Mercury acts as a preservative and a germ killer to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi that could spoil the products. Joanna Tempowsi, a World health Organization Scientist says that "the risk- benefit analysis favors the use of these preservatives." Kristin Adams would disagree. Adams is the chief executive officer of Afterglow Cosmetics, a natural and organic cosmetic company, and she believes that the big cosmetics companies use preservatives to extend shelf life. She says, "the large companies are looking for a 5 year shelf life or the cosmetics will go bad very fast."

Fashion Legallaire's take: As of right now, mascara is not banned from the mercury treaty but there should be careful consideration in its use. For starters, one should not use the same mascara for more than three months because reuse exposes it to air and the eye, multiple times causing bacteria to form. Always wash your makeup off every night especially around the eye areas for they are the most sensitive. Facial pores grow its own bacteria let alone more caused from makeup use. For more environmental health news visit For more fashion environmental news, read our article on the Fashion Toxic Report. 

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