Harmful Impacts of Mercury Exposure through Skin-Lightening Creams

December 19, 2022

Minimata Convention Prohibits Lightening Products with Hg above 1 ppm–Most Countries are Unaware of Regulation

In 2020, skin-lightening products were added to The Minamata Convention on Mercury (Article 4), prohibiting the manufacturing, importing, or exporting of lightening products containing mercury concentrations over 1 ppm. Unfortunately, many countries are unaware of this ban, resulting in the continued use of these dangerous products. Concerned Canadian researchers recently published a review of 41 scientific papers from 22 countries examining mercury exposure from skin-lightening products. The team analyzed mercury levels in urine, blood, and hair using data from several reviewed studies. They discovered that approximately two-thirds (67.3%) of skin-lightening product users had higher urinary mercury levels than the recommended level. Blood mercury levels of users were similar. Sixty percent were above the reference level, and 70% had above-recommended levels of mercury in their hair.  Additionally, the team investigated the health impacts these exposures caused users and discovered a long list of symptoms and conditions. These include tremors, lethargy, vertigo, neurasthenia, itchiness, irritability, headaches, weakness, insomnia, anxiety/depression, memory loss, and body/joint pain. On a sad note, the review identified four cases of children under five who presented with signs of mercury intoxication after being in contact with their mothers who were skin-lightening product users. The youngest case involved a 10-month-old infant admitted to the hospital after presenting symptoms including anorexia, hypertension, and a regression of neuromotor skills. His mother had been using a skin-lightening product containing 56,000 µg/g of mercury for six weeks before his symptom onset. The authors ended their review with a sense of hope. They believe their findings can help regulatory agencies and intergovernmental organizations better understand the global prevalence of mercury-added skin-lightening products to promote actions to eliminate these toxic products. 

Original Review

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons