Groups make recommendations at start of UN Kick off meeting on “Eliminating Mercury Skin Lightening Products” at WHO-HQ in Geneva

If illegal marketing can’t be stopped, online platforms should discontinue sales of all SLPs since toxic SLPs affect this entire category.””

— Michael T. Bender

SEATTLE, WA , USA, February 15, 2023 / — Mercury watchdog groups are calling on Amazon (and other E-commerce platforms) to stop all sales of skin-lightening products (SLPs) if marketing of high mercury products (that are often considered illegal or adulterated by federal and state laws in the U.S.) can’t be stopped Their call comes during a United Nations kick-off meeting on “Eliminating Mercury Skin Lightening Products” at the World Health Organization Head Quarters in Geneva, Switzerland this week.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury and many governments around the globe, including but not limited to the United States and EU member states, bans the manufacture and trade of SLPs with a content of over 1ppm of mercury. In the autumn of 2022, the Mercury Policy Project purchased suspect SLPs from Amazon and 19 of 21 purchased creams were found to have mercury concentrations over the legal limit of 1 ppm. The levels of mercury detected by the lab in those 19 products ranged from 1.5ppm to 8,500 ppm. Prior testing have found even higher mercury concentrations in SLPs on, according to the new ZMWG report.

“Our testing indicates that the marketing of high SLPs persists on,” said Michael Bender, Mercury Policy Project director and Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) co-coordinator. “If illegal marketing can’t be stopped, then all SLP marketing should discontinue since toxic SLPs affect this entire category.”

Regular use of mercury-added SLPs can lead to rashes, skin discoloration and blotching, while long-term exposure may damage the eyes, lungs, kidneys, digestive, immune and nervous systems.

“Despite well-known health risks, unscrupulous cosmetics manufacturers often add mercury compounds to SLPs,” said Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, European Environmental Bureau and ZMWG co-coordinator. “Distributors, retailers and online platforms, benefit from this toxic trade.”

Online platforms often claim they are exempt from liability and/or claim they have filters in place to prevent illegal sales of SLP. However, our Zero Mercury Working Group reports, including this latest one, prove otherwise.

More than 75% of the suspect SLPs found to have high mercury concentrations were already on hazard or detention lists issued by various governments, including the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA), the states of California and Minnesota, California counties and New York City. The report recommends several remedies and underlines that at minimum, any policies, agreements or settlements with E-Commerce platforms should not be weaker than what was agreed to elsewhere, such as in Europe.

The full report can be downloaded here:

Notes for the editor

• See the World Health Organization press release on the UN kick off meeting: Although mercury SLPs have been banned in the U.S. since 1973, they continue to be sold illegally. Since the start of the pandemic, online sales have grown significantly.
• Violations of consumer, health and safety laws not only threaten public health, but create an uneven playing field since ‘brick and mortar’ stores must comply with domestic laws that may be evaded online by E-commerce platforms like Amazon.
• Mercury lightens the skin by suppressing the production of melanin and can also remove age spots, freckles, blemishes and wrinkles. Adolescents also use SLPs, as mercury acts as an anti-bacterial for the treatment of acne.
• The Minamata Convention on Mercury:
• The Zero Mercury Working Group Skin Lightening Campaign:

Michael T. Bender
Zero Mercury Working Group
+1 802-223-9000
[email protected]


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