Skin whitening creams sold in India found to contain dangerously high levels of toxic mercury

New Delhi-based non-profit Toxics Link recently tested 15 samples of skin whitening creams, including six samples imported from Pakistan. All the samples from the neighbouring country had very high levels of mercury, a neurotoxin. Some samples had mercury 1,000 times beyond the permissible limit.

Gaon Connection
| Updated: November 11th, 2021

The use of these products could result in severe health risks. Photo: Pixabay

Did you know skin whitening creams used widely by people across India have high levels of mercury, the most toxic heavy metal in the environment?

A new study released today by Toxics Link, a Delhi-based non-profit, has found that skin whitening creams have ‘dangerously’ high levels of mercury, a heavy metal and neurotoxin. The toxic metal was found in imported skin whitening creams being sold in the markets across the country. However, the creams manufactured in India were found to be free from mercury.

The study titled ‘Dark truth of skin whitening creams: Presence of Mercury in skin whitening creams’ released in Mumbai on November 11, shows mercury was reported in six out of fifteen samples of skin whitening cream brands tested in Shriram Institute for Industrial Research, New Delhi.

“It is disturbing that the mercury concentrations in some of the imported samples were found to be as high as 1000 times more than the current permissible limit of 1 ppm (parts per million),” read the study.

The use of these products could result in severe health risks. According to the global public health body World Health Organization, mercury is hazardous to health and has the potential to cause damage to the central nervous system, the gastrointestinal system and the kidneys.

The new study pointed out that there is an urgent need for periodic monitoring of imported skin whitening creams by the regulatory authorities to safeguard the health of the consumers.

All samples imported from Pakistan have toxic content

In the present report, 15 skin whitening creams of different brands including Face Fresh, L’Oreal Paris Skin perfect antiaging and whitening cream, Lotus Herbals White Glow Skin Whitening and Brightening Gel, manufactured in India, Pakistan and Philippines were tested.

Of the total 15 samples, seven were from India, six from the neighbouring country Pakistan, and one from Philippines. 

Concentration of mercury in skin whitening creams.

Shockingly, the study revealed that all the six samples containing mercury were manufactured in Pakistan. Meanwhile, the test results revealed that all the samples manufactured in India also had mercury but below detectable limits. In India, these samples were collected from different cities including the Gaffer market in Delhi, Vashi in Navi Mumbai and Tarapet Market in Vijayawada.

“A proper surveillance system needs to be in place to prevent high mercury-containing toxic skin whitening creams to be imported to India,” Piyush Mohapatra, Senior Program coordinator, Toxics Link, was quoted as saying in its press statement.

The study pointed out that the mercury-laden creams are easily available in the country and are being sold both in offline shops and on online portals despite the strict regulations under the Drugs and Cosmetics Rules 2020 in place to contain mercury in cosmetics.

“Availability of highly toxic and non-compliant products in shops and on online portals are a serious breach of the national rules and need to be acted upon immediately by the regulators” Satish Sinha, Associate Director, Toxics Link, was quoted.