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You are being cheated: Dangerous levels mercury found in skin care products

  • Published at 12:49 am December 13th, 2019

ESDO collected 16 samples of imported creams from online shopping sites and local markets before sending those to Biodiversity Research Institute’s laboratory of USA and Arnika Laboratory of Czech Republic in September for chemical test reports

Imported skin whitening creams contain dangerous levels of mercury content, with some brands having more than one lakh times higher mercury than the national permissible limit, reveals in a report.

The Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO) on behalf of the Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG), yesterday revealed  a study report titled ‘Dangerous, mercury-leaden and often illegal Skin Lightening Products: Readily Available for Online Purchase’ in a press conference at ESDO office at Lalmatia in the capital.

ESDO collected 16 samples of imported creams from online shopping sites and local markets before sending those to Biodiversity Research Institute’s laboratory of USA and Arnika Laboratory of Czech Republic in September for chemical test reports.

The reports from the globally recognized labs were made available last month.

The ZMWG is an international coalition of more than 110 public interest environmental and health non-governmental organizations from over 55 countries from around the world formed in 2005 by the European Environmental Bureau and the Mercury Policy Project. 

The ZMWG strives for zero supply, demand, and emissions of mercury from all anthropogenic sources, with the goal of reducing mercury in the global environment to a minimum.

All the 16 products had high mercury levels ranging from 49 parts per million (ppm) to 129, 433 ppm, much higher than the local permissible level set by the Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI), the report says.

In 2015, BSTI set standard for skin cream allowing a maximum 1ppm of mercury concentration. 

According to the report, the highest level of mercury containing product is Goree Whitening Beauty Anti-ageing Spots Pimples Removing Cream with 129,433 ppm mercury level.

Least mercury contained product among the tested samples is Stillman’s Skin Bleach Cream with 49ppm. Both  were imported from Pakistan. 

Among the 16 samples, nine were imported from Pakistan, three from Thailand, two from China, one from Malaysia and the rest one’s origin was not mentioned in the report.

Presence of mercury in human body may cause itching to cancer. Higher levels of mercury can cause obstacle to children’s mental and physical growth. It is also very harmful to biodiversity.  

Samples of six whitening cream were collected from online shopping site Daraz, a sister concern of Alibaba, China. Rests are from New Supermarket in Dhaka. The global study found widespread mercury concentration in products from internet marketers such as Amazon, eBay, Lazada, Daraz, Flipkart and Jumia. 

Sayda Mehrabin Shejuti, Assistant program officer of ESDO, presented the report while its chairperson Syed Murghub Murshed presided over the press briefing. 

Among others Dr. Abul Hashem, Former Chairman of Chemical Division of BSTI, Abu Jafar Mahmood, Former Professor of the University of Dhaka, Dr shahriar Hossain, secretary general and Siddika Sultana, Executive Director of ESDO and SM Abu Sayed assistant Director of BSTI spoke in the press conference.

Speakers urged to formulate a specific policy to stop import of such mercury containing products and their online selling.  They said the situation was alarming amid lack of monitoring.

Syed Murghub Murshed said : “Bangladesh has set a standard  for such products but these skin lightening products are available in market without  the certification marks of BSTI. Online market for these products is huge. We should take a coordinated approach among National Board of Revenue, BSTI and Department of environment to stop import of these illegal products in the country”.

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