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Skin-lightening factory shut down due to mercury findings

By Michelle Yeomans , 20-Nov-2012
Last updated the 03-May-2013 at 11:14 GMT

A cosmetics factory in Dhaka has been shut down by the Bangladeshi authorities for allegedly using harmful chemicals including mercury in its skin-lightening creams.

As of yesterday, a mobile court ruled that ‘Botanic Aroma’s’ products be seized while also handing down a two year prison sentence to its founder and owner.

According to magistrate Anwar Pasha the company was; “putting the health of many young people under threat by luring them with claims about the magical skin-lightening power of their products.”

Illegal

The factory raid is said to have come after extensive laboratory tests were carried out on four different types of creams produced by the company.

Back in 2006, Bangladesh banned the use of mercury in skin care products, and according to the World Health Organisation, the main adverse effect of the element in skin-lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage.

It may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring.”

Further details of the case as to whether an appeal will be filed, are yet to be made public.

With the global skin lightening market predicted as reaching up to $10 billion by 2015, the segment on the Asia Pacific region is notably one of the strongest, with India and China noted as the fastest growing markets, due to a strong cultural preference for fairer skin.

Mercury furor

Elsewhere on the region, 11 brands of skin whitening products containing mercury were found in five retail outlets in the Phillipines, back in September.

"This is by far our most toxic sighting in Quezon City, which clearly shows that the unlawful trade in mercury-laced cosmetics goes unabated despite the government's ban," said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition's Project Protect.

Using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) chemicals analyzer, the watchdog group detected mercury in the samples in the range of 977 parts per million (ppm) to 12,600 ppm, way above the allowable limit of 1 ppm set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

None of the products listed mercury as a product ingredient, and none provided complete product information as required under the labeling and fair packaging provisions of R.A. 7394 or the Consumer Act of the Philippines.

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