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The U.N. Is Cool With the Fact that There's Mercury in Mascara. Are You?

The powers that be have decreed mercury-laden mascara and other eye makeups to be "safe"

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Last week during the Diplomatic Conference for the Minamata Convention on Mercury in Japan, the UN decided that mascara and eye makeup are "officially exempt from a ban on mercury in cosmetics and soaps."

Um. Huh?

The rationale seems to be that since mascara only contains "trace contaminants" of the chemical (it's in there to ward off bacteria) and that there's really no other viable ingredient to that would work as well, they'll just let it slide.

"Mercury is sometimes used in small amounts in mascara as a preservative and a germ-killer. In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration allows it in eye cosmetics at a concentration of up to 65 parts per milli," Brian Bienkowski writes in Environmental Health News.

And, although it might sound super-scary, apparently, people who are well versed in these things don't seem to be overly concerned that we walk around with micro-traces of mercury coating our eyelashes. One such woman, Joanna Tempowski, a scientist for the World Health Organization's International Program on Chemical Safety, told Environmental Health News that "the risk-benefit analysis favors the use of these preservatives" in mascara and eye makeup.

Makeup artist Katey Denno points out that there are mascaras on the market that are mercury free -- they just don't work as well. As the Huffington Post points out, lash enthusiasts [have to choose] between the high volume look you get from standard mascara and the less alluring one you get from non-toxic alternatives."

The really frustrating part for those of us who are trying to make an informed decision is the lack of data on the effects of mercury in mascara. Why? There haven't been any scientific studies conducted to ascertain the risks.

READ: 12 Worst Mascaras

So, mascara has been exempt from the Mercury Treaty but what didn't make the cut? Some light bulbs, some batteries and some thermometers in addition to any cosmetics and soaps that contain more than "trace" contaminants.

The battle, though seemingly put to bed by the committee rages on. If you're interested, you can read more here, but, in the meantime, tell us, does the prospect of having mercury in your mascara scare you or do you think it's probably safe?

READ: 12 Best Drugstore Mascaras


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