High Levels of Mercury Found in These Skincare Products

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It's common knowledge that ingesting mercury can be toxic for the body, however, we typically only hear of it found in sushi or dental fillings. Unfortunately, there’s another place mercury may be hiding: skincare products.

According to Allure, 51 advocacy groups sent public action letters to eBay and Amazon requesting that they “stop marketing illegal mercury-laden cosmetics” in order to ensure that “cosmetics found to have mercury levels over 1ppm are no longer offered for sale.” This action was taken after testing discovered that many products on both e-commerce sites contained dangerous levels of mercury, far above the legal limit of one part per million (ppm) in cosmetics.

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After testing skincare products ordered from each of the sites, the advocacy groups discovered mercury levels 30,000 times the legal limit, prompting them to send the public action letters. Melanie Benesh, a legislative attorney for the Environmental Working Group (EWG)—which is one of the 51 advocacy groups bringing the issue to light—explained in a press release that these findings are a major problem for those buying skincare products online, especially skin lightening creams since mercury is a bleaching agent.

"Most Americans are aware that mercury is dangerous, but many people don't realize that [it's] sometimes used as the active ingredient in skin-lightening creams," says Benesh. “Mercury cannot be used more than 1ppm in skin creams, but the FDA lacks resources to adequately police the marketplace."

While this news shouldn’t completely deter you from buying beauty products on Amazon or eBay in the future, it does serve as a valid warning. After all, absorbing high levels of mercury can cause severe health issues. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) affirms that the most likely side effect of exposure to mercury in skincare products is kidney damage, not to mention the fact that it can also impair speech, memory and behavior.

Ultimately, the best way to protect yourself from possible mercury exposure is to ensure the products your buy from Amazon or eBay are made in the United States. Products manufactured in the Middle East, Africa or Asia have a higher chance of containing mercury, so be sure to read the fine print when it comes to product details—you’ll be happy you did.

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