Wired-GOV Newswire (news from other organisations)
LGA - National alert over dangerous skin lightening creams
Shoppers are being warned about highly toxic skin lightening creams – likened to paint stripper - which put users at a greater risk of cancer.
The Local Government Association (LGA) is urging people to be wary of illegal lotions containing poisonous ingredients after councils seized dangerous creams from shops and supermarkets in recent raids.
There's a booming black market in skin lightening creams - and Trading Standards teams fear the banned products could be on sale at low prices online and at car boot sales and market stalls.
Many of the toxic creams contain the bleaching agent hydroquinone - described as the biological equivalent of paint stripper – while others can include potentially deadly levels of mercury. But the banned products often fail to list their ingredients correctly, putting consumers at risk.
Hydroquinone can remove the top layer of skin and the body's natural defence against infection and the sun. It can also increase the risk of skin cancer and cause fatal liver and kidney damage. Mercury can cause similar life-threatening health problems.
Skin-lightening products are largely marketed at men and women from black and minority ethnic groups, but can also be used to lighten blemishes and scars.
They can be bought from High Street stores and online but prescription-only skin lightening lotions must only be used under the supervision of a doctor.
Because genuine skin lightening creams can be expensive to buy, illegal, toxic versions are flooding the market as they are cheap and relatively easy to create.
Trading Standards teams have recently seized banned skin lightening creams from shops and prosecuted retailers. Operations include:
- West Sussex County Council – seized nearly 1,000 jars of highly toxic skin lightening cream at Gatwick Airport with a retail value of £14,000
- Enfield Council – prosecuted a shop owner and his company who were ordered to pay £16,000 after selling skin lightening products containing mercury and hydroquinone
- Birmingham City Council – prosecuted a supermarket who were ordered to pay more than £6,000 after stocking cosmetics containing potentially lethal lead and mercury
- Northamptonshire County Council - seized skin lightening creams containing hydroquinone from local shops
The LGA, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, is warning people to be cautious about buying skin lightening creams and is reminding irresponsible traders they face prosecution and hefty fines if they are found selling illegal lotions.
Cllr Simon Blackburn, Chair of the LGA's Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said:
"Beauty routines shouldn't come with the risk of ruining your looks forever. Cosmetic products such as skin creams should be safe to use but banned lotions containing toxic formulas could seriously damage your health, and even kill you, so they should be avoided at all costs.
"If the price looks too good to be true, then it probably is. Consumers should always check the ingredients of their skin creams and never use a product containing hydroquinone. If the product doesn't display the ingredients at all, then consumers are also advised not to use it.
"Councils have been targeting rogue retailers selling these banned creams and the large fines they have received should deter others from selling these dangerous products.
"Anyone who has purchased a cream they think could be banned should stop using it immediately and report it to their local Trading Standards team.
"It is vital that people report any concerns, so that our officers can take action to prevent anyone being harmed or scarred for life."
Anyone who has concerns about a banned or counterfeit cosmetic product, or would like to report a trader selling such items, can contact Trading Standards by calling the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 04 05 06.
Notes to editor:
Hydroquinone inhibits production of the pigment melanin which gives skin its colour. However, melanin is vital to protect the skin against UV radiation so the human body will over compensate by producing more melanin. This results in a darker patchier appearance developing; it damages the elastin strands in skin causing premature aging and weakening of the skin; it can cause neuropathy (a disease of the nervous system) and it can damage your liver. It also increases the risk of skin cancer from UV radiation. It has been illegal across the EU since 2001 to sell products with hydroquinone.
Mercury is toxic and accumulates in the body, damaging the kidneys, liver and brain, causing a host of serious and potentially fatal health problems. It can also cause foetal abnormalities if used in pregnancy. Mercury has been banned from consumer cosmetic products since 1996.
Lightening creams can be bought from High Street stores and online but prescription-only skin lightening lotions - which may contain hydroquinone - must only be used under the supervision of a doctor.
A survey carried out by the British Skin Foundation found 16 per cent of dermatologists believe lightening creams are completely unsafe, and 80 per cent feel they are only safe when prescribed by a dermatologist.
Importers of cosmetics should have a technical file to show that the products have been tested and found to be safe.
Company bosses who sell banned cosmetic products can be fined up to £20,000 or sent to prison for a year.
In December 2015 Northamptonshire County Council's Trading Standards team seized skin lightening creams containing the banned substance hydroquinone from shops around Northampton.
In November an Enfield shop owner and his company were ordered to pay out £16,000 in costs and fines after selling skin lightening products containing mercury and hydroquinone. Some of the product labels misreported the true levels of the chemicals they contained. The prosecution was brought by Enfield Council.
In October almost 1,000 jars of cosmetics containing hydroquinone were seized by West Sussex County Council's Trading Standards at Gatwick Airport. The products, with a retail value of more than £14,000, had been flown in from Africa for distribution in the UK.
In September a Birmingham supermarket which stocked cosmetics packed with potentially lethal lead and mercury was prosecuted and ordered to pay more than £6,000.
In October Coventry City Council seized skin lightening cream containing hydroquinone at a shop and an online retailer in the city.
Latest News from
Wired-GOV Newswire (news from other organisations)
NHS Confederation - Covid continues to have a significant impact on service delivery17/09/2021 15:15:00
Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, responds to the latest review of Coronavirus restrictions in Wales.
Audit Wales - NHS Wales Accounts show an accurate reflection of finances for the past year17/09/2021 13:20:00
The Auditor General has published an updated infographic on the NHS (Wales) summarised accounts for 2020-21.
'No time for a play-it-safe Budget' if we want to unlock 'wall of investment' says CBI17/09/2021 13:05:00
Bold decisions from Government this autumn can unlock a ‘wall of investment’ from private sector investors with the power to turbocharge the UK’s recovery, bring levelling-up ambitions to life and underpin the transformation to a net zero economy.
UK Space Agency - UK space company to establish link with the far side of the Moon16/09/2021 13:15:00
A UK satellite company will provide the first commercial link between Earth and the Moon.
Patients Association - Patient Groups, Royal Colleges, medical charities and industry launch new Patient Coalition for AI, Data and Digital Tech in Health16/09/2021 12:15:00
A new coalition with members from Royal Colleges, health charities and patient groups has come together to ensure the interests of patients are at the heart of the development of policy in digital health technology.
NHS Confederation - CQC UEC findings show significant improvements in the quality of care, despite demand for services rocketing16/09/2021 10:05:00
Director of the acute network, James Devine, responds to the CQC UEC 2020 survey results.
Audit Wales - Many services were stretched before the COVID-19 pandemic, the coming years will offer little respite for the public finances16/09/2021 09:05:00
After a decade of squeezed budgets and rising demands, public services are grappling with three over-arching crises of global proportion.
LGA – securing the future of public sport and leisure facilities and services integral to health of the nation15/09/2021 16:15:00
Investment in public sport and leisure facilities and services is key to levelling up the health of the nation, tackling health inequalities and supporting climate change targets, a new report supported by the Local Government Association sets out today.
Audit Scotland - Covid-19 spending transparency will be 'increasingly difficult'15/09/2021 15:10:00
The Scottish Government estimates it has spent over £8.8 billion of the £9.3 billion allocated to support Covid-19 spending in 2020/21.
LGA responds to Unison survey on social care vacancy rates and staff mental health15/09/2021 14:10:00
Cllr David Fothergill, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, responded to research by Unison showing that workers in social care could face worsening mental health due to staff shortages