has removed mercury-laced skin lightening creams from its U.K. and U.S. websites and
is reviewing products on its platform, following an investigation that found e-commerce companies are selling cosmetics with mercury levels in violation of an international convention.
The Zero Mercury Working Group, a global coalition of environmental nonprofits, said Wednesday that it had tested skin lighteners from various e-commerce platforms and local stores this year. It found that 95 of 158 tested products across 12 countries contained banned levels of mercury, with 65 of these sold via e-commerce websites. The level of mercury, which is toxic and can cause serious health issues, ranged from 40 parts per million to more than 130,000 ppm.
At Amazon, the group tested 25 products and found that 20 had mercury levels that exceeded 1 ppm, which violates the United Nations Minamata Convention on Mercury. Amazon sold eight of the skin lighteners in the U.S., 10 in India and two in the U.K., ZMWG said.
“All marketplace sellers must follow our selling guidelines and those who don’t will be subject to action, including potential removal of their account. The products in question are no longer available,” said an Amazon U.K. spokesperson in an emailed statement.
At eBay, ZMWG tested 32 skin lighteners, finding that the company has sold at least 10 noncompliant products in Belgium and seven in the U.S. EBay said it was reviewing its site for the products identified by ZMWG.
“We have key partnerships and processes in place with product manufacturers and regulators to ensure a safe shopping experience,” said eBay spokeswoman Ashley Settle in an emailed statement.
Amazon pulled more than a dozen products from its U.S. website last week after activists brought them to the attention of the company, following the publication of new test results and a petition with more than 23,000 signatures from environmental organization Sierra Club.
ZMWG also accused German-based e-commerce company
, which operates in Africa, of selling two noncompliant products in Nigeria and one in Kenya. It tested nine skin lighteners sold on Jumia’s platform.
Jumia didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
ZMWG said some of the offending products came from Pakistan’s Goree Cosmetics and China’s JiaoBi. Many of the cosmetics can still be found on the e-commerce sites.
“Despite these illegal high-mercury products being essentially banned by governments around the globe, our testing result shows the same products continuing to be sold locally and on the internet,” said
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration agreed to meet with Mr. Bender in August 2018 about Amazon and eBay, according to an email seen by The Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Bender said the FDA hasn’t informed him of any actions despite repeated attempts to follow up.
The FDA didn’t immediately provide a comment.
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