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Metals with a relative density of 5 or more are called heavy metals, including gold, silver, copper, iron, lead, etc. Heavy metals are very difficult to biodegrade, instead, they can be enriched thousands of times under the biomagnification of the food chain, and finally enter the human body. Heavy metals can interact strongly with proteins and enzymes in the human body, making them inactive. It may also accumulate in certain organs of the body, causing chronic poisoning.
Harm of Heavy Metal in Beauty Products
Excessive levels of heavy metals in cosmetics can cause a series of hazards to the human body, such as poisoning, and even death. Lead is a toxic heavy metal that is extremely harmful to the human body. When excessive intake of lead occurs in the human body, it will have toxic effects on blood circulation, nerves, digestion and urinary system, affecting human development, especially intelligence and bone development. In addition, arsenic and its compounds are also toxic. When the human body comes into contact with or ingests excessive amounts of arsenic and its compounds, these substances can enter the body through the skin, respiratory tract and so on, and interfere with the normal metabolism of the cells, causing them pathological, metabolic disorders and even death. Mercury and its compounds can penetrate all the tissues and organs of the body through the skin mucosal barrier, causing serious damage to the human digestive system, nervous system, etc., which can result in dermatitis, confusion, respiratory failure, hematuria, uremia and so on. Cadmium and its compounds have certain toxicity, especially cadmium oxides. Cadmium can destroy the metabolism of calcium and phosphorus, replace the calcium ions in the bone, and hinder the normal solidification and maturation of collagen, leading to rickets.
Figure 1. Heavy metal in beauty products
Regulations for Heavy Metal
Heavy metals tend to enhance the efficacy of the cosmetics, or make the color of the cosmetics more beautiful and lasting. Heavy metals in cosmetics mainly refer to arsenic, lead, mercury and cadmium. It is inevitable that there are heavy metals in cosmetics. Because even if the raw materials in cosmetics come from the natural environment, there will be heavy metals. For example, plants contain heavy metals, so the natural ingredients extracted from plants to make cosmetics will also contain a small amount of heavy metals. However, we are not concerned about whether the cosmetics can contain heavy metals, but concerned with whether the heavy metals exceed the regulatory limits. According to the requirements of EU, the relevant limit standards for cosmetics are lead ≤ 10 mg/kg, mercury ≤ 1 mg/kg, arsenic ≤ 2 mg/kg, antimony ≤ 10 mg/kg. In US related regulations, the relevant limit standards for cosmetics are lead ≤ 20 mg/kg, mercury ≤ 1 mg/kg, arsenic ≤ 3 mg/kg.
Other Guidelines or Regulations for Beauty Products
There are some other regulations for cosmetics. The direct container material of cosmetics must be non-toxic and must not contain or release toxic substances that may cause harm to consumers. Cosmetics must be non-infective and safe to use. The name of the product, manufacturer, and the place of origin must be indicated on the label of the cosmetic, and the batch number should be indicated on the package as well.
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