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The Impact of Heavy Metal Chemicals on Consumer Goods

Heavy metal chemicals have been a topic of concern in the production of consumer goods for decades. These chemicals are known to be detrimental to human health and the environment. Several regulations limit their use in products such as RoHS, REACH, ELV, and California Proposition 65.

What are Heavy Metal Chemicals?

Heavy metal chemicals are naturally occurring elements that are poisonous at relatively low concentrations. Here are some examples:

  • Lead (Pb)
  • Cadmium (Cd)
  • Mercury (Hg)
  • Arsenic (As)
  • Chromium (Cr)
  • Thallium (Ti)
Periodical Table

Additionally, their toxicity is prevalent due to their bioaccumulative properties. This aspect prevents their elimination from the body and is dangerous to various components of human health. Indeed, since these heavy metals accumulate in the body, a minimal concentration will trigger harmful effects. Moreover, these heavy metal chemicals are not limited to a specific industry or product. They are in many consumer goods, including:

LCA and electronics
  • Electronic equipment
  • Batteries
  • Vehicles
  • Paint
  • Glass products
  • Cosmetics
  • Makeup
  • Rice cereals
  • Even dark chocolate!


Heavy Metal Chemicals

Health Risks

Electronic equipment and vehicles

Various such as Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, Nickel, Hexavalent Chromium

  • Affects the nervous, digestive, and immune systems
  • Affects the bones, skin, kidneys, stomach, and lungs
  • Carcinogenic


Lead, Mercury

Anemia, brain cell damage, kidney impairment

Glass products, paint


Anemia, brain cell damage, kidney impairment

Cosmetics and Makeup

Various such as Lead and Cadmium

Skin irritation and allergic reactions

Rice Cereals


Cancer, cardiovascular disease, developmental delays in children

Dark Chocolate

Lead, Cadmium

High blood pressure, kidney damage, decreased fertility.

Heavy Metals in Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate is a popular treat enjoyed by millions worldwide. However, studies have found that certain brands contain high levels of lead and cadmium. Importantly, these heavy metal chemicals can enter the chocolate from the soil and water used in cocoa cultivation. They can also come from processing and packaging equipment.

Exposure to lead and cadmium has been linked to several health issues, including high blood pressure, kidney damage, and decreased fertility.

To further elaborate, lead is structurally similar to other metals such as calcium, iron, and zinc. These minerals participate in many essential biochemical reactions in the human body. For example, calcium assists in bone development and the transmission of electrical impulses in the brain. Also, iron is needed for hemoglobin to carry oxygen throughout the body via the blood. Nevertheless, the body will preferentially use lead over these other metals, making it very toxic.

chocolate Heavy Metal Chemicals

The World Health Organization (WHO) has established guidelines for the maximum levels of these heavy metal chemicals in food products, including chocolate. However, these guidelines are not legally binding and not always followed.

Heavy Metals in Rice Cereals

Rice cereals are present in the diets of many adults and children. Nonetheless, some studies have found that rice cereals can contain high levels of arsenic, a heavy metal chemical harmful to human health. Namely, arsenic can enter rice from the soil and water, as well as from pesticides and fertilizers.

Furthermore, significant arsenic exposure leads to:

  • cancer
  • cardiovascular disease
  • developmental delays in children


The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has established guidelines for the maximum levels of arsenic in rice products, but these guidelines are not always applied.

Rice Pan Heavy Metal Chemicals

Heavy Metalss in Cosmetics and Makeup

There is a worldwide use of cosmetics and makeup products. Nevertheless, some studies have found that these products can contain high levels of heavy metal chemicals.

One can find these chemicals in a range of cosmetics and makeup products, including:

  • foundations
  • lipsticks 
  • eye shadows.

Exposure to heavy metal chemicals in cosmetics and makeup can lead to skin irritation and allergic reactions.

The EU Cosmetics Regulation and the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have established guidelines for the maximum levels of heavy metal chemicals in cosmetics and makeup products. However, since these guidelines are not always followed, some products may still contain high levels of these chemicals.

makeup cosmetics heavy metal chemicals

Identification of Heavy Metal Chemicals in Products

Thankfully, several regulatory frameworks limit the use of heavy metal chemicals in products. These include the RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances) Directive, REACH (Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, and Restriction of Chemicals), ELV (End-of-Life Vehicles) Directive, and California’s Proposition 65 (Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986) or Prop.65.

  • The RoHS Directive is a European Union (EU) law that limits the use of certain hazardous substances in electronic and electrical equipment. Lead, cadmium, and mercury are the heavy metal chemicals covered under this regulation. It aims to protect human health and the environment from the risks posed by chemicals.
  • EU REACH requires manufacturers and importers to gather information on the properties and potential risks of the chemicals they use and make this information publicly available. Often, the SCIP database accomplishes this task.
  • ELV is a European Union regulation that aims to reduce the environmental impact of vehicles at the end of their life. One way it does this is by setting limits on the number of heavy metals (the same ones covered by RoHS) that can be present in vehicle components.
  • California Proposition 65 (Prop. 65) is a state law in California that requires businesses to provide warnings about significant exposures to chemicals that can cause cancer, congenital anomalies, or other reproductive harm. You can research notices of heavy metal chemicals in consumer products using the Prop. 65 60-Day Notice Search database.
reach regulation and scope

It is important to note that these regulations vary in scope and the specific heavy metal chemicals they regulate. Manufacturers and importers should be familiar with the relevant laws and ensure that their products comply.

Any questions? Request your free consultation and see how Enviropass can assist you!