Bill Banning The Use Of Mercury In Skin Lightening Creams Passed The New York State Legislature

June 7, 2022

The New York State Senate and Assembly ended their 2022 legislative session on Saturday, June 4th, 2022, with many legislators returning to their districts to campaign for re-election. One of the bills that we worked hard to get through both chambers before the recess is legislation that we authored, the Mercury in Skin Lightening Cream bill.

This bill (S.8291A/A.8630A) is part of our Beauty Inside Out campaign to raise awareness of toxic chemicals in personal care products and advocate for solutions like this at the city, state, and federal levels. Cosmetics and other beauty products are largely unregulated.

Some of these products, which we apply daily to our bodies, contain toxic chemicals.

One of the most toxic is mercury, which is used as a preservative in creams designed to lighten skin color.

Mercury is a dangerous, persistent neurotoxin that can cause adverse health impacts ranging from skin irritation and dizziness to cognitive and psychological damage and impairment.

“To complicate matters, manufacturers do not necessarily have to list mercury among the ingredients, and many use different names for it when they do,” explained Sonal Jessel, MPH, Director of Policy at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “And while some states and retailers have already begun prohibiting the sale of cosmetics that contain mercury, it remains a growing, billion-dollar international industry that’s targeted almost exclusively at people of color. In fact, the only reason these products exist is to exploit Eurocentric beauty standards for financial gain.”

That is why we drafted New York State’s Mercury in Skin Lightening Cream bill. If Governor Kathy Hochul signs it into law, this legislation will ban the sale of skin-lightening products that contain mercury throughout the state and eliminate another source of exposure to toxic chemicals in our communities.

We thank Senator Samra Brouk (D55) and Assembly Member Karines Reyes (D87) for sponsoring this legislation and being fierce champions for protecting the health of women of color in New York.

And we urge Governor Hochul to sign this bill into law!

For a complete list of our legislative priorities, download our 2022 Policy Agenda here (PDF).

And to support our work, we invite you to make a donation here.

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