The South Asia convention on Coastal Management convention jointly organised by Centre for Science and Environment and Pondicherry-based PondyCAN identified the need for the South Asian countries to share experiences and approaches and the need to learn from each other.

CSE shared its findings with the respective companies to find out the reasons for the presence of such high levels of heavy metals in cosmetics. “We hoped that this would help find ways to limit the presence of heavy metals in cosmetics,” say CSE researchers.

Cosmetics products in India are regulated under the Drugs and cosmetics Act 1940 and Rules 1945 and Labeling Declarations by Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). BIS sets the standards for cosmetics for the products listed under Schedule ‘S’ of the Drugs and cosmetics Rules 1945 .

A variety of chemicals are used in cosmetics as ingredients and some are used as preservatives. These chemicals have different health effects. Hexavallent Chromium (Cr+6) is corrosive and allergic to the skin. Cr+6 compounds are enlisted as carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).

Nickel (Ni) is a natural element of the earth's crust and, therefore, small amounts of it are found in food, water, soil, and air.

Chromium is found naturally in rocks, plants, soil and volcanic dust, and animals. The most common forms of chromium that occur in natural water in the environment are trivalent chromium (chromium III) and hexavalent chromium (chromium VI). Chromium III is far less toxic than chromium VI.

Mercury (Hg) is considered one of the top ten chemicals or group of chemicals of major public health concern by WHO. Mercury is found in both inorganic and organic forms in cosmetics. Intentional use of mercury salts is prohibited in non eye care cosmetics in several countries such as the US and the EU and India.

Both organic and inorganic colourants may contain heavy metals as impurity. Colourants are used to impart colour to almost all cosmetic products. Primarily they are of two types: Organic colourants such as dyes and organic pigments which are fairly soluble and lakes which are fairly insoluble. Inorganic colourants lack a carbon molecule.

“Trace” refers to very low levels of impurities/contaminants in a finished cosmetic product. Trace presence is likely to stem from impurities of natural or synthetic ingredients, the manufacturing process, storage and migration from packaging.

Acceptable daily intake (ADI) is commonly defined as the amount of a chemical to which a person can be exposed on a daily basis over an extended period of time (usually a lifetime) without suffering any deleterious effect.