Class action against a top manufacturer of women's perfumes and makeup has been given the green light to proceed in the United States.
The legal action is against the major luxury goods company giant LVMH and concerns lipstick produced for Dior which has been found to contain unacceptably high levels of lead.
Dior's Addict Positive Red lipstick apparently contains double the safe level of lead and is at the centre of the case but is by no means the only culprit.
The high lead levels were revealed following scientific investigations in October last year on behalf of the U.S. consumer group The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics which tested 33 brand-name lipsticks and found two-thirds contained detectable levels of lead; of those, half were above the lead limit for lead in candy.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics says lead is a potent neurotoxin and is linked to numerous health and reproductive problems and does not belong in lipstick.
A call by LVMH that the lawsuit filed against it in November be thrown out, has been rejected by a Chicago court, which now allows the case to proceed.
Exposure to lead can cause learning and behavioural problems and is linked to infertility and miscarriage; it has also been linked to kidney damage; pregnant women and young children are particularly vulnerable - lengthy exposure can be fatal.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics says many in the beauty industry are reluctant to change their practice even though some are already making lead-free lipstick and also says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been slow to advise the public.
Health Canada has also released a study of lead in lipstick, where 21 out of 26 lipsticks tested contained lead ranging from .07 to .84 ppm and one product contained an alarmingly high lead level of 6.3 ppm.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, which is a coalition of public health, environmental and women's groups says it is possible to make lipsticks without lead, and all companies should be doing that.
The Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association trade group says that lead is a naturally occurring element that was not intentionally added to cosmetics.
Two other class actions in the U.S. are also in the pipeline, against L'Oreal and Proctor & Gamble, the manufacturers of Covergirl cosmetics.
It is currently legal in the United States for lipstick and other beauty products to contain unlimited amounts of lead, while in Australia, it is mandatory for cosmetics to list all ingredients on their labels and for cosmetics containing lead to carry warning statements and safety directions.