Birmingham, England, officials have reportedly cracked down on businesses selling cosmetics, including skin-lightening creams, lipstick and eye make-up, that purportedly contain potentially harmful levels of banned substances, such as lead, copper, mercury, barium peroxide, and arsenic. According the Birmingham Mail, Birmingham City Council’s Trading Standards officers have discovered dozens of shops selling cosmetics with toxic ingredients that cause blood poisoning, cancer, infertility, brain damage, and death.

Apparently at issue are banned Asian and Middle Eastern imports sold in stores that target ethnic minorities. Harmful ingredients have also reportedly been found in counterfeit versions of designer make-up products available in shops and online. “The manufacture of genuine cosmetics is strictly controlled and products are rigorously tested before they go on sale,” said a Trading Standards Institute spokesperson. “But the counterfeiters churning out the cheap versions do not abide by any of these rules, so along with potentially harmful metals, other banned substances may be used. Paint stripper and nail varnish remover have been found in fake mascara and liquid eyeliners and a batch of counterfeit perfume contained urine.” See Birmingham Mail, June 3, 2013.