Dissertations and Theses @ UNI


Open Access Thesis


Cosmetics--Lead content; Lead poisoning in children;


Lead remains one of the largest environmental toxins affecting children today (Costa, et al., 2004). It is associated with lower IQ, learning difficulties, decreased economic potential and other negative health effects and social behaviors (Kordas et al., 2006). In the United States (U.S.), high amounts of lead remain in and immediately around housing built before 1978 (Tarragó, 2015) as well as a variety of other sources, including cosmetics such as lip balms, that are marketed to the most lead-vulnerable population: young children. Lip balm was found to be the source a lead poisoned child in Minnesota (Minnesota resident, 28 years of age).

This study examines lead content in lip balms that are highly desirable to young children. A well-rounded literature review examines physical properties of lead and how it affects the body. It also delves into susceptible populations, exposure factors, as well as how lip balms are regulated under the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Due to the enticing nature of lip balms, information on sweet taste preferences and child-direct marketing will be explored as well.

Twenty-five lip balms were collected from various retail outlets. These samples were analyzed using Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectroscopy (ICP-MS) to determine lead content. ICP-MS technology is used to detect and quantify amounts (in parts per million or ppm) of a specific material within a substance. Descriptive, bivariate and Chi Squared statistics were analyzed through JMP software and compared lead content to various characteristics of the lip balms to determine possible associations.

Since many lip balms are flavored and marketed to young children as toys, children have relatively easy access to them. This sets up scenarios in which young children can easily ingest more lip balm than the manufacturer’s intention, even ingesting an entire product in one sitting. Therefore, an Average Daily Dose (ADD) Risk Assessment and estimated blood lead levels (BLLs) were calculated to estimate risk associated with use of lip balms in different scenarios.

Lead was present in all 25 lip balms analyzed in this study. Higher lead content was significantly associated with several lip balm characteristics in this convenience sample including, cross-promotional character related, flavor, country of origin, and “Use under adult supervision” warnings. Lower lead content was significantly associated with “Keep out of reach of children” warnings. ADD calculations and BLL predictions were made and revealed some of the lip balms would produce BLLs above 5µg/dL (the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s [CDC] level of concern) in different hypothetical situations.

Armed with this information, every effort to prevent exposure to any amount of lead should be made, especially in flavored lip products marketed to young children. Due to the small sample size of this study, more research is warranted on lip balms that include lead content and use among children to more accurately assess this situation. In the meantime, public and primary health care providers need to be aware of the possibility of lip balms as a source of EBLLs and educate caregivers about this danger.

Year of Submission


Degree Name

Master of Arts


School of Kinesiology, Allied Health and Human Services

First Advisor

Catherine Zeman

Date Original


Object Description

1 PDF file (xii, 105 pages)



File Format