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Two weeks ago, Sen. Jon Tester issued a stern request to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. There's a sleeper in our midst, a health risk as ingrained in American culture as shrink-wrapped cheese and the microwave oven. Women, even children, are under threat, Tester cautioned, from rising levels of lead in their everyday lives.

Lipstick, it seems, has gone to war.

Tester's release revealed that from 2009 to 2011, the maximum lead content in common lipstick more than doubled. This neurotoxin builds up in the body gradually, and given lipstick's proximity to food and the cheeks of loved ones, the potential hazards are not to be scoffed at. Tester asked the USDA to investigate how much lead can be ingested from regular lipstick use and urged the agency to set a cap for the level allowed in cosmetics.

"Jon Tester is committed to consumer safety," Tester spokeswoman Andrea Helling wrote. "Not disclosing dangers of rising levels of lead in lipstick is irresponsible and can have serious health impacts."

Lead exposure can lead to a number of nasty symptoms, which makes Tester's plea to the USDA all the more compelling. Ingesting high levels of lead can lead to digestive and kidney disorders, slowed motor reflexes and even blindness. According to scientific findings, those suffering from lead poisoning may also experience involuntary clenching of talons, droopy wings...

Wait. Talons? Wings?

For the past few years, conservationists have been vocal about the impacts of lead poisoning on birds of prey. Groups like the Center for Biological Diversity have pleaded with the Environmental Protection Agency to regulate or ban lead bullets and fishing weights. Raptors are ingesting lead in gut piles left behind by hunters; trout streams are choked with discarded lead tackle. Lipstick clearly isn't the only enemy. So where is Tester?

You don't have to search hard for his sentiments on the presence of lead in the natural environment. He's fought hard against higher regulation of lead products.

How is this possible? If lipstick is such a concern, why not the concentrations of lead we're depositing in the environment?

Tester's office says the responsibility to regulate ammunition falls to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, not the EPA. Still, we can't help wondering why he hasn't been equally vocal on what lead is doing beyond our backyards. Maybe it's because bald eagles don't vote.


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