Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Lipstick Lesbian Lead Abatement

Lead poisoning is very much on my mind. Not only because we have a young child who puts literally everything in his mouth (and recently chewed the face off a plastic king and a rubber boa), we live in a 100 year-old house in need of significant renovation, and that there have been multiple recalls of toys made in China containing lead, or that the task of taking a blood sample from our strong, sensitive son could involve four grown men, several straps and permanent psychological scars--while I’d prefer he be sedated, but because according to an article awhile back in the Oregonian, lipstick has lead, too.

While I figure every kid needs a lead test sometime in their crawling, chewing years (our first had the maximum lead level considered “safe” though his brain cells were abundant and number two tested clean), and I’m sure that sometime during our younger son’s earliest years we must have taken a blood sample to see that lead wasn’t the culprit in his sometimes surprising behavior, but with my middle-aged mind, I don’t recall. During his upcoming kindergarten checkup, with the necessary vaccines, we might as well get the blood sample at the same time, making it the ultimate horror trip for him and probably a good moment to change doctors, so he doesn’t take that association with him to the MD for the rest of his pediatric care.

I’m easy to get blood out of. I just have to get myself to the doctor to be tested when I’m not driving kids, folding laundry, cleaning up after the dog, sending off an article, painting a portrait, helping with homework or saying hello to my honey. Plus, frankly, I’m in denial; I just couldn’t believe it when I read the article about red lipsticks having the highest concentration of lead, including a list of the three highest content colors, and I had two of them in my makeup bag.

Fortunately, they weren’t my favorite lipstick, L’Oreal’s Pure Burgundy, which I wipe on several times a day and inevitably eat, but two other L’Oreal shades: Divine Wine and True Red, members of my alternating lipstick parade over the years. And those years are my chief concern; if I’ve been wearing lipstick every day for the past twenty-five years, always a red, what is the concentration of lead in my blood anyway, and why hasn’t this shown up during my countless blood tests during pregnancy and at the Red Cross? Is this why I weighed heavier than I looked during my early twenties, the lead giving me extra ballast? Is it lead poisoning--not an anxiety disorder--that drove me off the road and up the wall in 2006? Wouldn’t it make a wonderful scapegoat for my growing waistline and irascible behavior?

The majority of articles about lead poisoning focus on nutrition. If your kids are adequately fed, the lead doesn’t cause much damage, it latches onto calcium or iron or some other positive agent in the bloodstream and becomes a benign hitch hiker, not a secret agent plotting your demise or a sudden drop in I.Q. Which makes me feel better about our kids and the old house, the chewing habits we didn’t even try to break and the inevitability that some toxicity will sink in sometime; lucky for me, I’ve always taught good nutrition by example (except my penchant for chocolate cake for breakfast at birthdays and that Diet Coke habit I seem to have finally kicked), so that every vegetable, fruit, and calcium source that enters the house comes my way, too, hopefully ridding me of any lead that could leave me loopy and give lipstick lesbians a bad name.

Because I’m not giving it up. A day without lipstick is like a day without sunshine, and when I don’t wear makeup friends ask me whether I’m ill.

A good friend who sells Mary Kay Cosmetics assured me her lipsticks don’t have lead, a selling point these days, with retro reds suddenly the rage. I think I’ll check out her spring line soon, but for now I’m making do with a little tube called “Suede” until the right red calls my name, tests clean, and wins me over. Just the thing to wear to our son’s blood draw—I suspect we’ll all be needing some sunshine that day.

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