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Rediff.com  » Business » Beware! Fairness creams, lipsticks contain banned chemicals

Beware! Fairness creams, lipsticks contain banned chemicals

January 16, 2014 13:45 IST

Beware! Fairness creams, lipsticks contain banned chemicals

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A study conducted by a leading green NGO has found high amount of heavy metals including mercury in fairness products of reputed companies being endorsed by big Bollywood names.

Centre for Science and Environment (CSE's) Pollution Monitoring Lab (PML), which conducted the study, said despite the prohibition of use of mercury in cosmetics in India, it found mercury in 44 per cent of the fairness creams it tested.

It also found chromium in 50 per cent and nickel in 43 per cent of the lipstick samples it tested. The lab also tested for lead and cadmium, but did not find any.

"Mercury is not supposed to be present in cosmetic products. Their mere presence in these products is completely illegal and unlawful," CSE director general Sunita Narain said.

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Photographs: Reuters

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CSE said that 73 cosmetic products of four different categories were tested for heavy metals while 32 fairness creams (26 for women and six for men) were tested for mercury.

About 30 lipsticks, 8 lip balms and 3 anti-ageing creams were tested for lead, cadmium, chromium and nickel. The samples included Indian and international cosmetic brands along with a few herbal products.

"The fact that our lab did not find mercury in 56 per cent of the products tested suggests that the industry has the capacity and wherewithal to clean up their act. Many companies are following the law – what is stopping the others from doing so?" She asked.

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Photographs: Reuters
Tags: CSE

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The CSE test said that mercury was found in 14 fairness creams in the range of 0.10 parts per million (ppm) to 1.97 ppm.

A CSE statement said that a reputed product had the highest mercury level at 1.97 ppm, followed by another such product which registered 1.79 ppm.

Similarly, it found chromium in 15 out of 30 lipsticks tested in the range of 0.45 ppm to 17.83 ppm while Nickel was found in 13 out of 30 products tested in the range of 0.57 to 9.18 ppm.

"What is coming out very clearly is that this sector has extremely weak regulations and almost no enforcement of whatever laws that exist," Chandra Bhushan, CSE deputy director general and head of its lab said. 

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Photographs: Reuters

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Beware! Fairness creams, lipsticks contain banned chemicals

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CSE said that 73 cosmetic products of four different categories were tested for heavy metals while 32 fairness creams (26 for women and six for men) were tested for mercury.

About 30 lipsticks, 8 lip balms and 3 anti-ageing creams were tested for lead, cadmium, chromium and nickel. The samples included Indian and international cosmetic brands along with a few herbal products.

"The fact that our lab did not find mercury in 56 per cent of the products tested suggests that the industry has the capacity and wherewithal to clean up their act. Many companies are following the law – what is stopping the others from doing so?" she asked.

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Photographs: Reuters
Tags: CSE

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Beware! Fairness creams, lipsticks contain banned chemicals

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The CSE test said that mercury was found in 14 fairness creams in the range of 0.10 parts per million (ppm) to 1.97 ppm.

A CSE statement said that a reputed product had the highest mercury level at 1.97 ppm, followed by another such product which registered 1.79 ppm.

Similarly, it found chromium in 15 out of 30 lipsticks tested in the range of 0.45 ppm to 17.83 ppm while Nickel was found in 13 out of 30 products tested in the range of 0.57 to 9.18 ppm.

"What is coming out very clearly is that this sector has extremely weak regulations and almost no enforcement of whatever laws that exist," Chandra Bhushan, CSE deputy director general and head of its lab said. 

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Photographs: Reuters

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CSE said that as mercury is a neurotoxin, the inorganic mercury present in fairness creams can damage kidneys and may cause rashes, skin discolouration and scarring. It can also cause anxiety, depression, psychosis and peripheral neuropathy.

CSE in its statement said that after approaching the companies with the test results, seven out of 14 companies responded and none disputed its findings. However, most took refuge in the concept of 'trace' presence.

Their defense is that the heavy metal found is small in quantity and it is unavoidable because it is part of the ingredients. They also claimed that their product is safe for long term use.

The green body maintained that in India, limits are set only for few heavy metal and that too, in colourants - an ingredient used in cosmetics. Colourants make up 10 per cent of the weight of a lipstick and are one of the sources of heavy metals, the statement said.

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Photographs: Reuters
Tags: CSE , India

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There are no limits for finished products – which makes it difficult to monitor. Over and above, none of these products are tested by regulators. As is the case with the presence of mercury in fairness creams, CSE said.

"Manufacturers often get away on the pretext that toxic metals are present in trace levels. It is important that regulators set limits for final products and enforce them," said Chandra Bhushan.

To gauge the safety of cosmetic products it tested, CSE compared the levels of heavy metals found with their Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) limits which is the maximum amount of a toxin that a person can be exposed to over a lifetime without any appreciable health risk.

Since India has not set limits for ADI of mercury, CSE compared the amount of mercury in fairness creams with the ADI set by the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).

The results showed that whitening creams may contribute up to 71 per cent of the ADI for mercury depending on the product and the amount of the fairness cream used. This is a very high level of exposure to mercury from just one product.


Photographs: Reuters

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