EPA Warns of High Mercury Levels in Skin-Lightening Creams

EPA

EPA Warns of High Mercury Levels in Skin-Lightening Creams. 

By MEREDITH MELNICK
December 28, 2010

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is warning against skin-lightening creams that may contain dangerous levels of mercury. The agency cites recent investigations of imported beauty products by the Chicago Tribune and health officials in New York City, California and Virginia, which found high levels of the toxin in many creams made overseas.

The Chicago Tribune sent 50 creams to a certified lab for testing. Six of the creams were found to contain amounts of mercury banned by federal law. Of those, five had more than 6,000 parts per million of mercury — enough to potentially cause kidney damage over time, according to a medical expert.

The Illinois EPA wrote in a recent fact sheet 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.

Prolonged mercury exposure can cause damage to the nervous system, kidneys and brain. Other effects include skin rash and diminished vision. Mercury poisoning is particularly dangerous to young children and fetuses, leading to brain damage and developmental delays.

Read more here: EPA Warns of High Mercury Levels in Skin-Lightening Creams.


CONTEXT:

Connecticut In 2002, Connecticut enacted a law that: • implements a phase-out of many mercury-added products –effective July 1, 2006 the sale or distribution of mercury-added products containing more than one hundred milligrams or 50 parts per million of mercury is prohibited (with some exceptions for mercury-containing lamps), unless the product is specifically exempted from the statutory phase-out requirements.

Amalgam fillings contain 500,000 parts per million of mercury.  Each filling has about 3/4 of a gram of mercury, the same as a mercury thermometer, also banned under the statute.

(products subject to this phase-out under these provisions include household mercury thermostats, various chemical reagents, and mercury added switches including float switches and pressure switches);

• requires product labeling for most mercury-added products;

• bans the sale or distribution of certain mercury products;

• requires the manufacturers to initiate collection programs for many mercury-added products;

• establishes best management practices for dentists; and

• limits the sale of elemental mercury.


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