Mercury Warning for Skin Lightening Creams

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just issued a warning against using skin-lightening creams that could contain dangerous levels of <"">mercury, said Healthland.

The EPA pointed to recent investigations of some imported cosmetics. The investigations were conducted by the Chicago Tribune and New York City, California, and Virginia health officials, said Healthland. The probes revealed high mercury levels in a number of creams manufactured overseas, noted Healthland.

The Tribune investigation looked at 50 skin-lightening products; five made in Asia contained high mercury levels and were available in the Chicago area, said Healthland.

Earlier this year we wrote that the Tribune’s investigation that turned up six creams with high levels of mercury also found that the creams were made in Lebanon, China, India, Pakistan, and Taiwan. Of note, four of the cosmetics makers that the Tribune contacted regarding the probe confirmed that the products sold under their brand could be counterfeit.

According to the Illinois EPA’s fact sheet on mercury for retailers: “Do not sell or distribute any cream or cosmetic that lists any of the following on the label: ‘mercury,’ ‘mercurio,’ ‘calomel,’ or mercury compounds such as ‘mercurous chloride.’ It also makes sense to take special precautions when dealing with imported cosmetic products. Do not sell imported skin lightening creams if there is no label on the container, or if there are no ingredients printed on the product’s box or container.”

Mercury can accumulate in the body over time, making diseases and disorders potentially linked to one’s exposure, difficult to diagnose. The EPA has said that high mercury levels can damage major organs as well as the immune system, especially in the developing fetus. In addition, points out Healthland, mercury can cause neurological damage and damage to the kidneys and brain, can cause skin rash and vision problems. Mercury poisoning can cause brain damage and developmental delays in children and the unborn developing fetus, said Heartland.

The EPA also explained that mercury or mercury salts may be used as an active ingredient in skin-lightening products touted to lighten skin or remove spots. The EPA also pointed out that public health interviews in Manhattan reveal that some people are applying these dangerous creams to large body areas often (twice daily) and for extensive time periods (such as over several years), a problem since the toxic, heavy metal can accumulate in the body over time.

Mercury blocks melanin production and is banned in skin-bleaching or -lightening creams, explained the Tribune previously. Melanin gives skin its pigmentation and mercury can be quickly absorbed by the skin, leading to significantly dangerous health problems.

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