‘Alarming’ levels of mercury found in skin bleaching products used in Jamaica

Skin bleaching products

KINGSTON, Jamaica — The University of the West Indies (UWI) says a recently published study has found that some popular skin lightening products used in Jamaica contain “alarmingly high levels of mercury”.

Noting that skin bleaching is a significant health concern among Jamaicans, the researchers pointed out that a common ingredient in skin lightening products is mercury, which can cause damage to the human gastrointestinal tract, nervous system and kidneys.

The study, published in the June 2020 issue of the Journal of Health and Pollution, was supported by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

It was conducted by Phylicia Ricketts, Andre Gordon and Mitko Voutchkov from the Medical Physics Research Group in the Department of Physics (UWI) along with collaborators Christopher Knight of the Mines and Geology Division, of the Jamaica government and Ana Boischio of PAHO.

According to UWI, the researchers analysed 60 skin lightening products available on the Jamaican market for their mercury content using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) and Cold Vapour Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (CVAAS).

They found that the mercury content ranged from 0.05 ppm to 17,547 ppm with six products containing levels above the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowable limit of one ppm of mercury for skin lightening products.

“On average, creams were found to contain more mercury than lotions and soaps. Of over 300 participants interviewed, females younger than 30 years-old, who used skin lightening products more than once per day, were determined to be most at risk for high mercury exposure.”