Reducing Childhood Lead Poisoning in Immigrant Communities from Imported Makeup

We’ve seen an increase in lead poisoning among immigrant children in our region from use of lead containing imported makeup. In response, the Western States PEHSU has developed a set of fact sheets on the risks of using these makeup products on children. They are available in seven languages. Each has an English version on the back, and is tailored to the relevant language speakers. If you are interested in using these fact sheets in your work with children, there is a space where you can add your logo and contact information. Please contact us for more information.

Imported makeup containing lead is called many names, including surma, kohl, ranja, kajal, or al-kahal. People have used these products for a long time. Most of these products that come from Asia, Africa, and the Middle East contain lead.  Now we know it is dangerous.

Children across the United States have been poisoned from them. Lead can poison the brain and make it hard for children to learn, pay attention, and behave.

“My daughter was poisoned by kohl. We couldn’t even tell she was sick. A doctor tested her blood for lead. I thought kohl was healthy because it is natural. Now I know it has lead, which hurts children.”

– Refugee Mother

Available in Seven Languages:Surma Can Poison Children Factsheet PDF





More Lead Resources

California Department of Public Health – Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch

The California Department of Public Health, Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch, provides free educational materials for providers to give to patients and families, and free informative guidelines and fact sheets for providers and staff.


Early Adopters: State Approaches to Testing School Drinking Water for Lead in the United States

This report describes the features of statewide initiatives in operation between January 1, 2016 and February 28, 2018 in 24 states and the District of Columbia to conduct testing for lead in school drinking water, and the prevalence of elevated lead concentrations in tap water in public schools based on available data.

KALW logo Persistent Poison: Lead’s Toxic Legacy in the Bay Area

There are neighborhoods in the Bay Area that have higher rates of childhood lead poisoning than Flint, Michigan — where a recent lead-poisoning crisis made national news. To learn more about this ongoing public-health crisis, KALW News environment and health reporters Angela Johnston and Marissa Ortega-Welch spent more than a year sifting data, conducting interviews, chasing down public records, and going into the field. The Western State’s PEHSU’s Dr. Timur Durrani consulted on this series.

Crime of the Century: The Lead Pandemic

In this video, Bruce Lanphear describes how we failed to prevent the pandemic of lead poisoning and its associated costs to human health.


Eliminating Lead in Schools and Child Care Facilities,

This report proposes goals for reducing lead exposures in these settings, and calls for putting children first, through finding and eliminating lead before, not after, it harms children. Cleaning up these large-group settings offers great potential to prevent lead risks for significant numbers of children.

The Southwest Center for Pediatric Environmental Health created four 5-minute animated videos, aimed at education about, and prevention of, lead poisoning:
The Story of Lead in English and The Story of Lead in Spanish
The Mysterious Case of Lead in English and The Mysterious Case of Lead in Spanish.