Organizations Find Illegal Mercury Levels in Majority of Amazon, eBay Skin-Lightening Products


Sonya Lunder,

Courtney Bourgoin,

Geneva, Switzerland-- Today, during the third convention on the Minamata Treaty on Mercury, the Zero Mercury Working Group, The Beautywell Project and Sierra Club released results from their tests of mercury levels in Amazon and eBay skin-lightening products-- revealing that 60% of the tested products contained illegal levels of the chemical. The groups assessed 158 products from 12 countries. They found that of those, 60% all exceeded the one part per million limit adopted as U.S law, and the soon-to-be-implemented global limit for the 128 countries who signed the UN Minamata treaty on Mercury. 

Last week, Amazon removed the illegal products from their website in response to the US testing data, the groups caution that the company must enact permanent mechanisms to ensure the products remain offline. eBay and other global retailers have yet to take action. See the full 2019 testing results here, and the table of results below.

In addition to the report, representatives of the organizations released the following statements: 

“Despite these high mercury and often illegal products already being targeted by governments in the US and elsewhere, our testing shows these same brands continue to be sold by Amazon and eBay--not only in the US but also the European Union and India,” said Michael Bender, Zero Mercury Working Group Co-Coordinator.  ”These E-commerce toxic traders are not above the law, and they must comply like everyone else.”

“These skin lightening products expose communities of color to intense levels of mercury and impact their health outcomes especially women and children,” said Amira Adawe of the Beautywell Project. “This practice was inherited from colonization-- where historically people were taught to dislike their skin color. Online retailers play a major role in the global distribution of these harmful products. We need a strong regulatory system that will hold companies accountable.”

“These online retailers have been repeatedly warned that they are selling products that contain illegal levels of mercury, and must be held accountable for their failure to protect consumer health and safety,” said Sonya Lunder, of the Sierra Club’s Gender, Equity and Environment Program. “It is time for Amazon, eBay and others to put in place protocols to keep these toxic products off their websites, for good.” 


The 2019 Zero Mercury Working Group report analyzes the role of internet sales in the distribution of mercury-filled products-- where two-thirds of skin-lightening creams purchased from Amazon, eBay, Alibaba and other large online retailers contained illegal levels. Activists focused on purchasing 17 brands already identified by governments as having risky mercury levels. 

In Europe, Amazon, eBay, Allibaba, and several others online retail giants have agreed to voluntary measures to keep these and other illegal products out of their inventories. The corporations have not taken action to permanently remove these products from the marketplace in the United States or other countries, and do not have warning labels about the mercury content in the creams being sold online.

Brand name

Number of products purchased in the United States that contained illegal mercury levels  

Other countries where brand was purchased

Mercury Concentrations (ppm)

Listed on Amazon or eBay?



Bangladesh, Djibouti, European Union, India, Kenya, South Africa

Mercury not detected in some products. Others range from 48 to >10,000 ppm

Amazon (until 11/21) and eBay

Face Fresh


Bangladesh, South Africa, India

>1,000 ppm to 97,000 ppm




Bangladesh, European Union, India, Philippines, South Africa

40 to >100,000 ppm

Amazon (until 11/21)  and eBay

Jiaoli Cream


Bangladesh, European Union, India, Philippines, Nigeria

500 to 18,000

eBay (until 11/21)



Bangladesh, India, Nigeria,

1600 to >100,000

Amazon (until 11/21)  and eBay

Sandal Whitening Beauty


Bangladesh, India, South Africa

>20,000 to >100,000

Amazon and eBay

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit