The shady business of skin whitening, and credit card insurance: CBC’s Marketplace consumer cheat sheet


Miss something this week? Don’t panic. CBC’s Marketplace rounds up the consumer and health news you need.

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Are skin-whitening products as toxic as their message?

A Marketplace investigation tested popular skin lightening products sold in Canada and discovered that some of them contain alarming levels of harmful ingredients, including mercury, hydroquinone and steroids.

They’re not authorized for sale in Canada, yet we went undercover and bought dozens of products from beauty supply stores in Toronto, Halifax, Vancouver and Montreal. Many of the companies say these creams could be counterfeit. And shadeism experts say the products are also spreading a dangerous message.

A Marketplace investigation found that a number of skin-whitening creams containing dangerous ingredients are being sold illegally across Canada. The products, which are not authorized in Canada, could be counterfeit. (Shutterstock)

Check your credit card statement. You may be entitled to a refund

When 79-year-old Sheila MacIsaac sat down last spring to watch Marketplaceshe had no idea the end result would be almost $4,000 in her bank account. Our story featured people who had been signed up for credit card insurance without their knowledge, paying monthly fees that over time amounted to thousands of dollars.

Dartmouth, N.S., resident Sheila MacIsaac was refunded $3,900 by RBC after seeing a Marketplace story about credit card insurance. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Lid off, liquid out, dump cup: New bins simplify recycling

At one of five new recycling bins in downtown Vancouver, throwing out a coffee cup takes three steps:

  • Take off the lid and place it into the slot.
  • Pour out that lukewarm concoction pooling at the bottom.
  • Toss the empty cup into the blue opening. 

Do you think these bins will help stop paper cups from ending up in landfills? 

The coffee cup recycling bins are part of a six-month pilot by Return-It, the organization that leads the B.C. beverage recycling program through its depots. (Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

‘Grocery delivery wars’ expected to create boom in online food shopping

Increasingly, Canadians are skipping the grocery aisles and opting for home delivery. After years of lagging behind U.S. and U.K. retailers, Canadian grocers are trying to entice customers to sign up for their services by offering everything from same-day delivery to special parking stalls for customers who order online and pick up in store. Experts predict the industry will grow by 7 per cent or about $15 billion in the next decade. 

Increasingly, Canadians are skipping the grocery aisles and opting for home delivery options. (Robert Short/CBC)

What else is going on?

U.S. FDA approves first treatment for kids with peanut allergy
The first treatment for peanut allergies is about to hit the market in the U.S. It’s a big step toward better care for all kinds of food allergies — but it’s still a long way from a cure.

Cervical cancer could be eliminated in next century, international study finds
It could also be eliminated globally within a century, which would represent a huge victory for women’s health, according to two international studies done with the participation of Quebec researchers.

Controversial Clearview AI app could ‘end privacy.’ So, what now?
A powerful and controversial new facial recognition app can identify a person’s name, phone number and even their address by comparing their photo to a database of billions of images scraped from the internet. Now, a class-action lawsuit is taking on the startup, arguing that its app is a threat to civil liberties.

The latest in recalls

  •     This catcher’s helmet has been recalled due to an injury hazard.

  •     This racing truck might be a fire and burn hazard.

  •     This brow gel has been recalled due to possible mould contamination.

This week on Marketplace

Shady Business with Asha Tomlinson

This week’s investigation is something I’ve known about for a long time in my circles and community but never really talked about: skin lightening.

It’s big business, it’s global and it’s growing. In fact, analysts say the market for these products could exceed $31 billion US by 2024.

Even some big beauty brands are cashing in and you’ll probably be surprised with some of the well-known companies that are a part of this industry.

But what are the dangers? Experts say the messaging is harmful because it reinforces the idea that lighter skin is more worthy than darker skin tones. But we learn some of the products could put your health at risk too. We find the illegal sale of skin lighteners right across the country.

This has been a months-long investigation that puts you through “all the feels.”

We hope you’ll tune in. 

Watch our full investigation and past episodes of Marketplace anytime on CBC Gem

– Asha


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