The Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) has been investigating mercury-added skin lightening products (SLPs) for several years, primarily due to their health risks, their illegality under many national laws, and the prohibition by the Minamata Convention on Mercury against the manufacture and trade of mercury-added SLPs, which generally became effective in 2021. Between 2018 and 2019, we conducted two separate investigations confirming continued worldwide availability of illegal SLPs containing high mercury concentrations.
In our latest “Skin lighteners still available online despite mercury findings ” report we unveil that in 2022 the problem still persists. There is an urgent need for legal and programmatic reforms to better protect consumers and their families from unsafe, illegal and counterfeit products.
The 2020-2022 ZMWG investigation of SLPs offered by over 40 online platforms, and accessed in 17 countries by our partner NGOs, confirmed yet again that high-mercury SLPs are widely available from a range of popular e-commerce platforms globally. Of the 271 SLPs tested, 129 were found to have mercury levels over 1 ppm.
Zero Mercury Working Group tested 271 skin lightening products from 17 sampling countries in a study conducted between 2017 and 2022. Of the 271 products that were tested, 129 exceeded the maximum allowable limit for mercury of 1 part per million (ppm). Online market monitoring and test buy operations in the Philippines revealed that illegal mercury-added skin lighteners are still widely available for purchase in both online and on site market places.
Authors and analysts listed in alphabetical order by last name: Michael Bender, Mercury Policy Project; Charline Cheuvart, Rina Guadagnini and Elena Lymberidi-Settimo, European Environmental Bureau; David Lennett, Natural Resources Defense Council Council (contributing to the policy portions of the report); Andreas Prevodnik, Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.
With NGO support from the following ZMWG member organizations and other NGOs, listed in alphabetical order, that provided information and data for this report: BAN Toxics, the Philippines; Bio Vision Africa, Uganda; Casa Cem, Mexico; Center for Public Health and Environment (CEPHED), Nepal; Center for Environment Justice and Development (CEJAD), Kenya; Centre Africain pour la Santé Environnementale (CASE), Cote d’Ivoire; Earth, Thailand; Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO), Bangladesh; Environment Friends Society, Bahrain; European Environmental Bureau (EEB), Belgium; groundWork (gW), South Africa; Integrated Health Outreach (IHO), Antigua and Barbuda; Mercury Policy Project (MPP), USA; NEXUS3 Foundation, Indonesia; Sustainable Research and Action for Environmental Development (SRADev), Nigeria; Toxics Link, India; and Toxisphera Environmental Health Association (TEHA), Brazil.
With government support from Dr. Custer Deocaris, Raymond Sucgang and Dave Gabriel Cadungog from the Philippines Nuclear Research Institute, as well as Dr. Linroy Christian, Department of Analytical Services, Ministry of Agriculture, Antigua and Barbuda, who provided analytical and testing services.