Some creams promising to lighten skin, eliminate age spots and zap freckles contain high levels of mercury, a toxic metal that can cause severe health problems, a Chicago Tribune investigation has found.
The newspaper sent 50 skin-lightening creams to a certified lab for testing, most of them bought in Chicago stores and a few ordered online. Six were found to contain amounts of mercury banned by federal law.
Of those, five had more than 6,000 parts per million — enough to potentially cause kidney damage over time, according to a medical expert.
The Food and Drug Administration banned mercury in skin-bleaching or lightening products in 1990, but the agency rarely tests the products to see if consumers are at risk. The Chicago Tribune's tests — among only a handful ever conducted — show that tainted products are still readily available.