Does Your Mascara Contain Mercury? Probably.
Mercury's not safe enough for light bulbs, batteries, thermometers and various medical devices.
But your eyes? That's another story, at least according to the United Nations Minamata Convention, so named because thousands of people in Minamata, Japan suffered mercury poisoning from contaminated industrial wastewater.
The UN convention last week decided that companies can use mercury in mascara and other make-up until safer alternatives can be found. B why use mercury in the first place? Evidently it's an effective preservative and germ-killer. However, it's also a powerful neurotoxicant that can cause kidney damage and serious neurological effects. If you're pregnant and exposed to mercury, your baby's brain could be affected.
To date, no scientific studies have researched the impact that the levels of mercury found in eye make-up could have on human health. Still, Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the consumer watch-dog group Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, says (quoted here in Scientific American) there's no reason "a known neurotoxin should be allowed in any of these products" because alternatives exist. Most manufacturers just aren't using them.
Fortunately, several cosmetics companies committed to public health and safety as well as beauty do exist, and they're producing mercury-free mascara as well as other non-toxic make-up options. Here are the ones I know about. If you have other recommendations, please leave them in the comments below.
By the way, for added safety:
* Store mascara in a cool, dry place.
* Toss it after about three months, whether the tube is used up or not. Bacteria can multiply in older tubes and cause eye infections.
* Don't apply when you're driving (duh!). Many optometrists report treating women who scratched their corneas while trying to apply mascara in a moving car!