Amazon and eBay accused of selling cosmetics with mercury

Shoppers look at items in a cosmetics shop ahead of Black Friday sales in Caen, France, on Nov 27, 2019.
Shoppers look at items in a cosmetics shop ahead of Black Friday sales in Caen, France, on Nov 27, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

SEATTLE (BLOOMBERG) - Online marketplaces Amazon and eBay are entering the holiday shopping season fending off reports about products with high mercury levels being sold on their websites, yet more evidence that the convenience of online shopping carries product safety risks.

Activist groups including the Sierra Club purchased 158 skin-lightening products from Amazon and eBay marketplaces in 12 countries and found 60% were contaminated by mercury.

"One major problem is that none of the products list mercury as an ingredient on the label, so it is impossible for an individual to know the product could be deadly," said Sonya Lunder, spokeswoman for the Sierra Club, which partnered with Zero Mercury Working Group and The Beautywell Project on the product tests.

Many of the brands have already been identified by the US Food and Drug Administration and other government agencies for mercury contamination, which should make it easy for marketplaces to keep the products off their sites, she said.

An Amazon spokeswoman said the products are prohibited and "are no longer available." "All Marketplace sellers must follow our selling guidelines and those who don't will be subject to action, including potential removal of their account," the spokeswoman said.

The company said it uses tools to scan products on the site and block those suspected of violating its polities.

eBay, in an emailed statement, said it is reviewing the report to make sure it is removing any contaminated products.

"Consumers can shop eBay's 1-plus billion items with confidence, knowing we have key partnerships and processes in place with product manufacturers and regulators to ensure a safe shopping experience," eBay said.