Crime & the Law

Warning to consumers about arsenic and cyanide found in counterfeit beauty products


Legitimate make-up and other beauty products. Police are urging consumers to be careful about what they buy. Image: Jade Wimbledon. Note: Image used for illustrative purposes. It’s not suggested any of these products are said to be ‘fake’ or contain harmful substances.

Police have seized fake perfume containing cyanide and human urine, and make-up containing arsenic, mercury and lead.

The Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) is highlighting the dangers of fake products as it launches a campaign called ‘Wake up – don’t fake up!’

They’re drawing attention to the toxic levels of harmful chemicals found in some fake beauty products, and the health and safety risks of counterfeit electrical goods.

PIPCU was established in 2013 and is a unit of the City of London Police.

In the last 18 months, they’ve suspended over 5,500 websites and seized more than £3.5 million worth of fake products.

The campaign launches with a warning from PIPCU that the chemicals in these beauty products can often cause allergic reactions and health problems, and counterfeit suncream usually fails to offer UV protection.

The factories that manufacture the products are often dirty and unhygienic, and traces of rats’ droppings have also been found.

As well as the health and safety risks, the police are also warning consumers about online card fraud and exposure to malware.

Detective Superintendent Maria Woodall of PIPCU said:

We have had victims who have bought fake items online only to discover later that the criminals behind the site have used their payment details to make further purchases or even use their personal details to set up hundreds of illegal sites selling counterfeit goods.

The police are urging shoppers to be cautious, especially when shopping for beauty products online.

They’re telling consumers to keep security software up-to-date and to buy only from reputable sellers.


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