Almost 50% of the world’s skin lightening products contain mercury above a safe concentration a new study has found.
The UN’s Zero Mercury Working Group’s (ZMWG) investigation between 2020 and 2022 found levels of mercury above 1ppm [parts per million] were found in 129 products of 271.
Erna, Face Fresh, Papaya, New Face and Sakura, as well as others, were among the brands named to have dangerous levels of mercury in their formulas.
The products, meanwhile, were found to be available in 17 countries worldwide, including Mexico, the US, Belgium, India, Thailand and Nigeria.
E-commerce platforms with the named products on sale include Amazon, eBay, AliExpress and Ubuy – confirming that some platforms are “not sufficiently motivated to verify the legality of products sold”, the report by ZMWG wrote.
“When these platforms were notified in the past of sales of illegal high-mercury products, a common response was that they voluntarily removed those products from sale, and that they put more filters in place as a deterrent.
“Yet in most cases those measures did little to deter online sellers.”
The findings, however, show a reduction in the amount of beauty products containing high levels of mercury from 2019.
Of 166 skus tested in 2019, 56% had concentrations over 1ppm.
ZMWG said that nearly all of the skin lightening products reported in 2019 with high levels of mercury are available on more than three times as many online platforms as before.
Exposure to high concentrations of mercury can cause rashes, skin discolouration and blotching, according to ZMWG.
Meanwhile, long term exposure can cause damage to the eyes, lungs, kidneys, and digestive and immune system.