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Thanks to all who followed this discourse till now.

This is the last of the series on Mercury!!!!

Just a recap of previous blog on mercury:

Mercury Poisoning

One of the more serious risks of unsupervised and continuous use of skin whitening creams is Mercury Poison. According to the WHO, mercury poisoning can cause the following:

  • Kidney and liver damage
  • cancers
  • Skin rashes
  • Change in skin colour and scarring
  • Skin can no longer fight infections
  • Anxiety, depression or psychosis, pain and tingling sensation due to damage of peripheral nerves
  • Nephrotic syndrome (a kidney condition marked by leakage of protein in urine)


  • Distribution of mercury-containing creams and soaps is banned in the European Union and numerous African nations.2,24,30
  • A European Union Directive specifies that mercury and mercury compounds are not allowed as ingredients in cosmetics (including soaps, lotions, shampoos and skin bleaching products). However, phenyl mercuric salts for use as a preservative in eye makeup and eye makeup removal products are allowed at concentrations equal to or less than 0.007% by weight.1
  • The United States Food and Drug Administration allows mercury compounds in eye area cosmetics at concentrations at or below 65 mg/kg expressed as mercury (approximately 100 mg/kg expressed as phenylmercuric acetate or nitrate).31 All other cosmetics must contain mercury at a concentration less than 1 mg/kg. The presence of mercury must be unavoidable under good manufacturing practice.31
  • Health Canada’s draft guidance on heavy metal impurities in cosmetics specifies a limit of 3 mg/kg for mercury as an impurity in cosmetic products.32–34
  • The Philippines is reported to have banned skin lightening products with mercury levels exceeding the national regulatory limit of 1 mg/kg in 2011.23


Regulatory body Limits for cosmetics other than eye area products
European Union Banned
Many African nations Banned
United States Food and Drug Administration < 1 mg/kg
Health Canada ≤ 3 mg/kg
Philippines Food and Drug Administration ≤ 1 mg/kg
Regulatory body Limits for eye area products
European Union ≤ 0.007% by weight
United States Food and Drug Administration ≤ 65 mg/kg expressed as mercury (approximately 100 mg/kg expressed as phenylmercuric acetate or nitrate)



  • Mercury-containing skin lightening products are hazardous to health and as a result have been banned in many countries. However, there are reports of such products still being available to consumers, and they are advertised on the Internet. For example, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported the availability of a mercury-containing beauty cream on 1 September 2011.
  • Public awareness needs to be raised regarding the types of products and the specific products that contain mercury and the risks associated with mercury exposure.
  • The 2011 survey described previously states that “Consumers gravitated to known mercury-free choices in countries that had government seals and/or regulation about mercury content.”
  • Information on alternatives must also be provided, because skin lightening products that do not contain mercury may contain other hazardous substances.


For further WHO information on mercury, please visit:


  1. UNEP (2008). Mercury in products and wastes. Geneva, United Nations Environment Programme, Division of Technology, Industry and Economics, Chemicals Branch ( d1_UK_Web.pdf).
  1. Glahder CM, Appel PWU, Asmund G (1999). Mercury in soap in Tanzania. Copenhagen, Ministry of Environment and Energy, National Environmental Research Institute (NERI Technical Report No. 306;
  2. Anonymous (2011). FDA bans skin whitening products due to mercury content. The Manila Paper, 6 August 2011 (
  3. Uram E, Bischofer BP, Hagemann S (2010). Market analysis of some mercury-containing products and their mercury-free alternatives in selected regions. Gesellschaft für Anlagenund Reaktorsicherheit (GRS) mbH, March (GRS-253;
  4. IPCS (1991). Mercury-containing cream and soap. In: Inorganic mercury. Geneva, World Health Organization, International Programme on Chemical Safety (Environmental Health Criteria 118;
  5. USFDA (2000). Cosmetics: ingredients prohibited & restricted by FDA regulations. Updated May 30, 2000. Silver Spring, MD, United States Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration ( 7406.htm).
  6. Health Canada (2009). Draft guidance on heavy metal impurities in cosmetics. Ottawa, Ontario, Health Canada (
  7. Health Canada (2011). Heavy metals in cosmetics—fact sheet. Ottawa, Ontario, Health Canada (
  8. Environmental Defence Canada (2011). Heavy metal hazard. The health risks of hidden heavy metals in face makeup. Toronto, Ontario, Environmental Defence Canada (
© World Health Organization 2011 All rights reserved.

Words of Advice

Make sure you buy the right products. Spend time to read the contents of your cosmetics before buying. If in doubt ask your expert dermatologist. Stay informed on the ingredients in your cosmetics and personal care products.

Get involved! Tell your children, relatives, friends, neighbors….practically people around you about this.

The reason why people bleach is quite innocent but when done without the guidance of an expert will likely land you in more trouble than you bargained for and must be done for the right reason.

If you are just beginning to bleach or intending to bleach or is suffering from the above effects, the time to stop is now.

If you are already suffering from some side effects of using skin whitening creams, then not all hope is lost. Some of the side effects are reversible and you can get help from the expert dermatologists, get back to normal health and still get back your natural skin tone. Seek for help at the right place rather than go back to the same place that caused your problem.



SAY NO SKIN BLEACHING! Play your part!

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