Minnesota has become the first state to ban mercury from mascara, eye liners, and skin-lightening creams; the law will take effect on January 1. Retailers who knowingly sell cosmetics that contain mercury in Minnesota could be fined up to $700, and penalties could reach $10,000 for manufacturers who fail to disclose mercury on product labels.
Most makeup companies have phased out the use of mercury, but it’s still added legally to some products as a preservative and germ-killer. Minnesota’s cosmetics provision is part of a larger ban targeting better-known sources of mercury, such as thermostats, barometers, toiletries, fragrances and over-the-counter drugs such as eye drops, nasal sprays, and antiseptics.
“Using eye makeup with mercury is unlikely to cause immediate health problems, but mercury accumulates in the body, so consumers should avoid exposure whenever possible,” said Carl Herbrandson, a toxicologist with the state Health Department.
Mercury can retard brain development in children and fetuses, who are most vulnerable to the metal’s toxic effects; it can also cause neurological symptoms in adults.