Amazon pulls skin-lightening products after groups’ concerns

Amazon pulls more than a dozen skin-lightening products with dangerous mercury levels off its website after Minnesota public-health and environmental activists raised concerns

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Amazon has pulled more than a dozen skin-lightening products with dangerous levels of mercury off its website after Minnesota public-health and environmental activists raised concerns.

“For a large retail company selling toxic products to individuals of color, I think it’s so wrong. And these are illegal products,” said Amira Adawe, founder of the BeautyWell Project, who has been educating women on the hazards of creams intended to lighten their skin for about eight years.

Amazon spokeswoman Cecilia Fan said sellers who use their site must follow the proper guidelines.

“And those who don’t will be subject to action, including potential removal of their account. The products in question are no longer available,” she said in an emailed statement Friday.

Fan also pointed out the company’s policy that bans suppliers from selling hazardous products, including ones containing mercury.

On the same day of delivering the petition, the organizations also took out a full-page ad in a local newspaper demanding that the Seattle-based company stop selling toxic skin-lightening creams. The ad had three words in bold print: “Dangerous, racist, and illegal.”

Many such creams remain popular among some communities of color despite containing mercury. Adawe, who has worked on this issue for years locally, is now focused on targeting the retail giants.

Such products are not heavily regulated despite having illegal toxins in them, said Mary Blitzer of the local Sierra Club branch.

She added that the ultimate test is whether the products remain off Amazon’s site for good. As of Thursday evening, all but one of the 15 products appeared to be removed from the site.