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FST Study links Mercury exposure to the use of skin lightening products in Jamaica

Dr Phylicia Ricketts

A recently published study in the June 2020 issue of the Journal of Health and Pollution concluded that some popular skin lightening products used in Jamaica contain alarmingly high levels of mercury. Skin bleaching is a significant health concern among Jamaicans with a common ingredient in skin lightening products being mercury. Mercury is a toxic substance which can cause damage to the human gastrointestinal tract, nervous system and kidneys.

The study 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 (Mines and Geology Division, Government of Jamaica) and Ana Boischio (Pan American Health Organization, UWI). The researchers analysed sixty (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). The mercury content was found to range 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 1 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.

The results of the study are bring used to design of public education initiatives about the risks involved with skin bleaching. The study was supported by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

To read the study Mercury Exposure Associated with Use of Skin Lightening Products in Jamaica:

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Members of the Medical Physics group explain their results at a workshop. 

Published on 04 Jul, 2020

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