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UWI study links Mercury Exposure to the use of Skin Lightening Products in Jamaica

The Faculty of Science and Technology at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus has advised that a recently published study by 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 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).

Please see the link to read the study Mercury Exposure Associated with Use of Skin Lightening Products in Jamaica.

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