Some Skin Lightening Creams Are Full Of Banned Mercury

The Chicago Tribune bought 50 creams used to lighten skin and fade age spots and had them sent to an outside lab for testing — and got troubling results. Six of the creams were found to contain amounts of mercury banned by federal law. Five of the creams had enough of the toxic metal to cause kidney damage over time, the Tribune reports.

Now the FDA has agreed to investigate the issue in response to the Tribune’s investigation.

“We didn’t know there was that kind of a risk, and we believe now there is a level of risk,” FDA spokesman Ira Allen said. “We are going to follow up.”

From the Tribune:

Mercury is banned in skin-bleaching or lightening creams. The metal blocks production of melanin, which gives skin its pigmentation. But mercury can be rapidly absorbed through the skin and cause severe health effects, including neurological and kidney damage.

Ellen Silbergeld, a professor of environmental health science at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said she was troubled by the high amounts of mercury found by the Tribune. “It’s highly appropriate that (the FDA) take action,” she said.

FDA to investigate skin creams for mercury [Chicago Tribune]