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4 December 2012, 06:00
600 packets of a skin cream containing mercury have been seized from small grocery shops in Buckinghamshire.
Trading Standards found the skin lightening creams in High Wycombe, Chesham and Aylesbury
Many contained mercury and all broke labelling regulations.
Trading Standards Team Leader Gina Green said under the 2008 Cosmetics Products (Safety) Regulations mercury was banned in cosmetics, and using creams containing the element could seriously damage kidneys, skin and the nervous system.
Results from the Public Analyst showed that 17 of the 24 samples contained amounts of mercury between 470 and 15,000 milligrams per kilogram. Regulations allow trace elements that are technically unavoidable in good manufacturing practice.
'These amounts are extremely high and potentially very dangerous,' said Gina.
It is thought the creams seized were made in Thailand and Pakistan, but the importers are not known and Trading Standards officers are this week investigating how they got into the country.
Gina said: 'We are asking shop owners to stop supplying any skin lightening cream that does not have the name and address of an importer or manufacturer in the European Union.
'Shop owners are unaware of the dangers of such cosmetics. Most of them say they are selling the products in response to requests for them.'
Martin Phillips, Cabinet Member for Community Engagement, said: 'My concern is about the long-term effects on people who may not be aware that these creams may be harmful if they're used over time. I would urge people to avoid using cosmetics that don't bear the name and address of an importer or manufacturer in the European Union.'
Labelling regulations state that imported products must show details of the importer.
Seized creams that contained mercury include Brite Face Cream, Stillmans Skin Bleach Cream, Stillmans Freckle Cream, Due Whitening Cream and Wiana Whitening Cream.