A systematic review of global legal regulations on the permissible level of heavy metals in cosmetics with particular emphasis on skin lightening products

Irmina Maria Michalek, Emma K.T. Benn, Florentino Luciano Caetano dos Santos, Sharon Gordon, Chi Wen, Bian Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: There is an urgent need to address the safety problems caused by the use of skin lightening cosmetics. Evidence suggests that some of them may contain heavy metals. Objectives: We conducted a systematic review of global legal regulations regarding the permissible level of mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium in cosmetic products, with particular emphasis on skin lightening preparations. Methods: The systematic search of documents was a two-stage process. First, official websites of 17 regional organizations and subsequently regulations for countries with a population over 100 million were searched. Results: Fifteen legislative acts, encompassing more than 67·2% of the global population were reviewed. Regulations were identified for 44/59 high income countries, 16/55 upper middle income countries, 9/45 lower income countries, 0/34 low income countries. The median adult literacy rate was 91·4% and 64·2% in countries with and without regulations, respectively. The use of mercury, lead, arsenic, and cadmium has been banned in 67, 67, 65, and 65 out of 69 countries, respectively. Conclusions: While regulations exist in most of the high income countries, in low income countries there is a lack of similar standards. In most countries for which these legal regulations have been identified, restrictions on the permissible level of heavy metals are strict. There is a need for enforcement of existing rules, and rigorous assessment of the effectiveness of these regulations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)187-193
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Research
Volume170
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2019

Keywords

  • Heavy metals
  • Legislation and jurisprudence
  • Skin lightening preparations
  • Skin pigmentation
  • Vulnerable populations

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