While there are a number of products that we know to exercise caution when using or consuming, however, we generally take it for granted that the skin-care products sold here in the United States are safe due to strict regulations. However, 51 advocacy groups have come together to reveal a cause for concern – the products that we purchase online.

It’s true, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has fair strict regulations when it comes to the ingredients permitted in our cosmetic products in order for them to be produced or sold within the United States. In fact, this limit is so strict that it only allows for one part per million (ppm) of mercury in any cosmetic product, a limit that has been in place since it was first established in 1973. This is a strictly enforced limit, one that has been put in place with our health and safety in mind.

Unfortunately, with the popularity of online shopping comes new concerns regarding the regulation of the products that we are using. With Amazon sales in the United States expected to hit an incredible $258.2 billion in 2018 alone, a number that is up approximately 30% from the previous year. We, as a society, have embraced the ease associated with online shopping – choosing to make our purchases from our couches and offices as opposed to making the trip to a local retailer. While the success of Amazon may not surprise you, many are surprised to learn that the retailer in second place isn’t Walmart or Target, it’s eBay!

These sales platforms allow us to shop across the globe, accessing products both inside and outside of the United States with the click of a button. This, however, requires the consumer to shoulder the responsibility of determining whether a product from another country is safe enough for use, a responsibility that many of us are ill-prepared for. After all, most of us haven’t built a laboratory in our basement to test the products coming in.

This is the concern that drove the recent testing by a total of 51 environmental and public health advocacy groups asking an important question – are we truly responsible for ensuring the safety of our products or should retailers like Amazon and eBay shoulder some responsibility, removing unsafe products from their sites.

The group purchased a number of skin-care products from the two sites, which were then tested by the Mercury Policy Project in order to determine the mercury level that they contained. Their findings may surprise you. Some products tested as high as 30,000 ppm, meaning they are 30,000 times the legal limit allowed by the FDA! However, they are readily available to unsuspecting U.S. consumers online. It’s not that the sites don’t have regulations in place, the problem, the advocacy groups state, is the lack of enforcement.

“Most Americans are aware that mercury is dangerous, but many people don’t realize that [it’s] sometimes used as the active ingredient in skin-lightening creams,” explained Melanie Benesh, a legislative attorney for the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in a press release about the findings of this testing. “Mercury cannot be used more than 1ppm in skin creams, but the FDA lacks resources to adequately police the marketplace.”

Why is this such a big concern? Exposure to mercury at high levels like that in the tested skin-care products is incredibly toxic. Not only can this cause minor side effects like rashes and skin discoloration, but it may also cause serious kidney damage, mental health concerns including depression and anxiety, long-term nerve damage and more. In more serious cases, mercury toxicity can lead to death.

The advocacy groups will continue to put pressure on online retailers to step up and police the products available on their own platforms as well as on the federal government to update what they consider to be outdated regulations; however, they also encourage consumers to educate themselves on the risks of their purchases. If you think you’re getting an ‘unbelievable deal’ online, exercise caution.

Image via Medium


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