A study conducted by the Pollution Monitoring Lab (PML) at India’s Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), has reportedly found excessive levels of hazardous chemicals, including mercury, in nearly one-half of the products tested. Of 73 cosmetic products tested from four different categories, 32 appar- ently tested positive for mercury, including 44 percent of all skin-whitening creams. Included in the testing were 30 different lipstick products, eight lip balms and three anti-aging creams, many of which tested positive for mercury, chromium and nickel. The samples included both Indian and international cosmetic brands and some herbal products.

CSE compared the levels of heavy metals found with their Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) limits—the maximum amount of a toxin a person can be exposed to over a lifetime without any appreciable health risk. Because India lacks set ADI limits for mercury, the agency used the ADI set by the U.S. Environ- mental Protection Agency. The study showed that the whitening creams  may contribute up to 71 percent of the ADI for mercury, depending upon the product and its use.

Noting that mercury is banned for use in cosmetics under India’s Drugs and Cosmetics Acts and Rules, CSE Director Sunita Narain reportedly called its presence in the products “completely illegal and unlawful” and suggested that, with “lax regulatory requirements that are generally not even enforced, many cosmetics companies are getting away with criminal behavior.”

“Our standards for cosmetics are well-defined. We are ensuring that the Drugs and Cosmetics Act is stricter and the companies that do not adhere to these laws will not be in market. To this effect, we have decided to have a dedicated testing laboratory in Chennai,” India’s Drug Controller General, G.N. Singh  said. “The systems are in place and we are working at implementing the rules better.” See LiveMint.com, January 16, 2014; Natural News.com, January 29, 2014.