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Posted by on May 13, 2009 in FDA, Toxicology

And Yet Another Dubious Consumer Product From China

And Yet Another Dubious Consumer Product From China


A brand of water-based face paint caused a cluster of skin reactions, including rashes, itchiness, burning, and swelling, in children at an “organized event,” reports the FDA. The paint contained “significant microbial contamination” according to the agency, and the US seller, Fun Express, is issuing a voluntary recall.* The product was manufactured by Shanghai Color Art Stationery Company Limited in Shanghai, China.

The date and place of the organized event and the number of children affected were not revealed by the FDA. Also the nature of the paint contamination was not specified in the FDA’s online press release. However, the AP reports that the agency found elevated counts of yeast and mold in the paint.

The advertised chemical composition of the paint, according to the product label, consists of water, paraffin wax, petroleum, glycerine, calcium carbonate, stearyl alcohol, sodium benzoate (an antimicrobial preservative), acacia senegal, dextrin, and “perfume for body.” The label also states that the “paint is made from FDA approved, high quality ingredients, however, as with most cosmetics, a few people may experience an allergic reaction.” Fun Express claims that the face paint was sold to 130 customers, and that 95% of these sales were before January of this yearsuggesting that the reported cluster of skin reactions was an isolated event.

In 2007, millions of toys were recalled by Mattel after its Chinese-made products were found to be coated with lead-containing paint. The same year, tens of thousands of Chinese-made crayon and paint sets were recalled by Toys “R” Us because of lead contamination.

In 2006, Chinese-imported glycerine (aka glycerol, aka glycerin) that was contaminated with diethylene glycol caused more than 100 deaths of Panamanians who consumed tainted cough syrup. The historical use of diethylene glycol as a deadly, ersatz glycerin substitute has been heavily covered at this blog. Skin contact with diethylene-glycol-containing resins has been reported to cause allergic reactions. 

* Although there is no recall notice at the company’s web site or at the web site of its Omaha-based parent company, Oriental Trading Company. The Fun Express web site currently describes its face-paint products as being out of stock.

05/14/09 update: The Columbus Dispatch reports that 43 children in Delaware County, Ohio, who had their faces painted at a Girl Scouts event on Saturday, February 28, developed facial rashes. The local health district revealed today that the purple and red paints caused the most rashes, which typically appeared where the paint was applied. Rashes returned on some children days later, after being exposed to the sun. Three children received medical care for their rashes. In its investigation, the health district received one report that “the paint seemed old, had separated, and was hard to squeeze out of the tube.” In the meantime, the Fun Express web site still provides no indication that the products have been recalled.

bmartin (1127 Posts)

A native East Tennessean, Barbara Martin is a formerly practicing, board-certified neurologist who received her BS (psychology, summa cum laude) and MD from Duke University before completing her postgraduate training (internship, residency, fellowship) at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. She has worked in academia, private practice, medical publishing, drug market research, and continuing medical education (CME). For the last 3 years, she has worked in a freelance capacity as a medical writer, analyst, and consultant. Follow Dr. Barbara Martin on and Twitter.