Canada issues new guidelines on heavy metals in cosmetics

By Michelle Yeomans

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cosmetics

The Canadian government has issued new guidelines on heavy metals like lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury and antimony in an effort it says, to determine appropriate limits of ‘impurities’ in cosmetics.

According to Health Canada, heavy metals are not acceptable in cosmetics as they may cause injury to the health of the user, often finding their way into pigments and other raw materials with some even being used as cosmetic ingredients in the past, like hair dye lead acetate for example.


The government's guidelines now state that heavy metal impurity concentrations in cosmetic products will be seen as technically avoidable when they exceed the following limits; Lead at 10 ppm, Arsenic, Cadmium and Mercury at 3 ppm and Antimony at 5 ppm.

"These levels are based on cosmetic products sampled in Canada and are in line with acceptable levels of impurities in other program areas​. It is important to note that occurrences of heavy metals above these limits will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis."

 "Products with values above these limits may undergo an assessment to determine the level of risk posed by the product, which would then determine the appropriate enforcement action," ​the document further stated.

The Canadian government also warns that it may now request information on heavy metal test results for a cosmetic product if a risk is suspected, and advises manufacturers to have the information readily available.

 “It is the manufacturer's responsibility to make sure that the finished cosmetic product contains as few heavy metal impurities as possible so that it does not exceed the limits set out​.”

Some years since the last update…

The last time that Canada Health made changes to its cosmetics regulations was back in 2009. Then, it had announced the restriction of 2-MEA, DEGME, PGME and pigment red 3, stating that the cosmetics ingredients could pose a threat to human health.

It had come as part of an ongoing review of over 200 chemicals using health and environmental criteria, to be ultimately placed on a ‘Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist’, an administrative tool for manufacturers.

One ingredient in particular, 2-MEA (2-methoxyethanol acetate), registered as having uses in nail polish and as a solvent and viscosity decreasing agent in cosmetics was said to have been placed on the hotlist to bring Canadian regulation into step with that in Europe where the chemical was banned. 

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