A research  conducted by the Centre for Environmental Justice found very high levels of Mercury in many of the cosmetic products sold on the market.
The research was conducted on skin whitening products, widely available in Sri Lanka, both in rural and urban areas. Skin whitening concerns the use of natural or synthetic chemical substances in order to lighten the skin.
The research showed that out of 46 samples tested 25 creams contained dangerous levels of Mercury, as high as 30.167 ppm. No warning was provided on the label or information leaflet.
In comparison to the level for tolerable daily intake given by the WHO (World Health Organization), which is set at 2 μg/kg of body weight per day for total mercury intake, all the samples contained hazardous levels of mercury.
Most of the samples were products manufactured in China, in which the label content is indicated in Mandarin (Pai mei whitening spot cream, Xin Jiaoli 10 whitening spot cream, Caike Ginseng whitening cream, Aichen Beauty whitening freckle cream).
Others are found to be manufactured in Pakistan (Seven herbal\ Ubtan), Thailand (Prime lightening cream), Hongkong (Aichen Beauty Anti spot whitening cream) and Sri Lanka (Venus fairness day cream).
As stated under the Cosmetics, Devices and Drugs Act No 27 of 1980, Sri Lanka should control these products. However some of these killer whitening creams were approved under the Cosmetics, Devices and Drugs regulatory Authority in Sri Lanka.
Mercury is one of the primary toxic metals of concern in cosmetics. The toxicity depends on the type of mercury exposed. The most hazardous form is organic or methyl mercury. But all forms of mercury are absorbed through skin and tend to accumulate in the body due to lipophilic property of the chemicals. Blood contamination of mercury can cause allergic reactions, skin irritation, or adverse effects on the nervous system. Clinical symptoms of over exposure to mercury include tremors, weakness, memory loss, dermatitis and impaired kidney function.
In May 2013, the Center for Environmental Justice (CEJ) took action and sent a letter of demand to the Director General of the Cosmetics, Devices and Drugs Authority (CDDA) to act fast on regulating the mercury in skin whitening creams .
In particular they appeal for: (a) to make necessary regulations for the maximum permissible mercury level in the skin whitening cream; (b) to cancel the current toxic creams registered under the CDDA; (c) to direct the companies that are involved in selling these contaminated creams to recall their products from the market; (d) to inform the public on the danger of using such contaminated skin creams.