LONDON, UK: British government warns consumers to avoid skin lightening products “at all costs” as a quarter tonne products from Cameroon were seized at Gatwick Airport for containing banned chemical.
The Local Government Association cautioned the creams contained hydroquinone that “acts like paint stripper”.
Hydroquinone is described by the LGA as “the biological equivalent of paint stripper”.
Trading standards officers seized shipments to Britain as harmful chemicals including traces of mercury were discovered in the products.
“They do not always spell out the correct levels of ingredients, putting consumers at risk,” the official said.
“It can remove the top layer of skin, increasing the risk of skin cancer, and cause fatal liver and kidney damage. Mercury can cause similar life-threatening health problems.”
The LGA revealed that these toxic products were being sold by rogue retailers on online marketplaces, at car boot sales and market stalls.
“Unless they are issued on prescription by a doctor, creams containing hydroquinone, steroids or mercury are banned in the UK because of their potentially serious side effects,” the association added.
LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board Chairman Simon Blackburn said, “Skin creams containing banned ingredients are very dangerous and could seriously damage your health, scar you for life and even kill you, so they should be avoided at all costs.”
The British Skin Foundation advised people should consult a doctor if they have any concerns about their skin.
As many as 360 products were seized from a store in Dagenham alone. The ingredients were incorrectly listed and had failed to meet European Union regulations.
Store owners were fined £6,500 and ordered to pay £8,010 to the council.
In 2018, Southwark Council had detained around 2,900 skin whitening products, imported from Nigeria, during a single raid.
The National Center for Biotechnology Information in the United States has also notified a warning about the chemical, “It is now known how hydroquinone and its metabolites can cause damage to DNA and inhibit apoptosis (death) of mutated cells.”
“The use of hydroquinone as a skin-bleaching agent is accordingly unsafe and should be completely banned,” the center asserts.