TRADERS are being warned to be on their guard against a banned chemical that was found being imported through Tilbury Docks.

The council’s trading standards officers caught an importer bringing skin lightening creams containing bleaching agent hydroquinone, a substance banned for its potential to cause cancer, liver damage and other illnesses.

It has been illegal for anyone to sell products containing hydroquinone over the counter since 2001 and officials have warned traders caught doing so could be fined £5,000.

Customers have also been advised to check the label for their own safety to ensure a product does not contain hydroquinone.

Councillor for public protection Phil Smith said he was pleased the trading standards team had managed to seize the offending products.

He said: “I find the selling of dangerous and illegal products to unsuspecting people abhorrent and only hope the team will continue to stop other dangerous products before they reach our residents.

“There can be no excuse in this instance as the chemical has been banned for 12 years.

“This is unscrupulous and irresponsible behaviour; they are putting money before public health.”

Anyone who sees a trader selling unsafe cosmetics or suspects the product they are using may be harmful is advised to contact Consumer Direct confidentially on 0345 040506.