Research Finds Mercury Poisoning In Skin Lightening & Anti-Aging Creams Sold Online

mercury in skincare products

A new analysis of hundreds of products on online marketplaces like eBay, Alibaba, and Amazon has revealed widespread mercury contamination among skin lightening and anti-aging creams.

The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) tested 271 products bought in 15 countries over a 13-month period and found nearly half to be contaminated with the dangerous heavy metal at levels above 1 part per million (ppm), the legal limit in the US. The EU, meanwhile, does not allow any mercury in cosmetics.

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Most of the contaminated products were not made by large American or European brands. However, these were found in Pakistani, Mexican, Chinese, and Thai brands that are sometimes popular in those regions.

“It is really concerning that these online manufacturers continue to sell and flaunt and profit from illegal products that are doing significant damage to consumers,” said Michael Bender, an international coordinator with the Mercury Policy Project.

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Mercury is used as a skin whitening agent because it blocks the production of melanin. It gives color to skin, and it can be used to remove spots, freckles, blemishes, and wrinkles. Some analysts expect skin-lightening product sales to reach nearly $12bn globally by 2026, ZMWG said.

Mercury poisoning can cause significant injury, including rashes, kidney disease, and nervous system damage. Did you know skin whitening creams can also cause cancer? ZMWG, which is an international coalition of more than 110 public health advocacy groups, detected levels as high as 65,000ppm.

Astronomical levels

“We are not finding 1ppm – we are finding products that are hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of times above [1ppm],” Bender said. “These levels are astronomical.”

Image: Alamy

The most recent analysis builds on three previous rounds of testing by ZMWG. After previous tests, some brands allegedly pulled contaminated batches from shelves. However, the most recent study revealed many of the same companies were still selling mercury-contaminated products.

The complexes, that privilege white over dark, have been prevalent all over the world for a very long time. That being the case, fairness creams have been benefiting from this mindset for years now. Especially in the subcontinent, being dark or dusky has always been a big NO.

It is common for girls in India and Pakistan to be told not to drink tea because it will make them darker. Even newborn babies are massaged with ‘ubtan’ in order to make them fairer. Because apparently, you cannot be pretty if not fair.

Many Pakistani celebs have previously landed in hot water for promoting beauty creams amidst all the colorism controversy. When Ayeza Khan opted for an ad where she gave the credit for her success to a beauty cream, Amna Ilyas called her out.

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