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EnvironmentHealth Gabon12. March 2023

Countries Team Up to Remove Mercury from Make-Up

Three countries – Gabon, Jamaica, and Sri Lanka – are teaming up to eliminate mercury in skin-lightening products, a beauty practice deemed harmful to human life and the environment, through a multimillion-dollar project.

“This initiative is significant as it focuses not only on substitutions for harmful ingredients but on awareness building that can help change behaviors that are damaging to individual health as well as the planet,” explains Global Environment Facility (GEF) CEO and Chairperson Carlos Manuel Rodriguez.

Eliminating mercury skin lightening products – led by United Nations Environment Programme, funded by GEF, and executed by the World Health Organization and the Biodiversity Research Institute – is a $14 million three-year project aimed at raising awareness of the health risks incurred by the use of mercury-added skin lightening products, developing model regulations to reduce their circulation, and halt production, trade, and distribution in domestic and international markets alike.

Men and women have both been using skin-lightening products for centuries, and according to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, there shouldn’t be more than 1mg/1kg (1ppm) of mercury in such products. Yet in practice, more than 300 products from 22 countries have a 10% excess of the approved limit, and many have up to 100 times the authorized amount. Mercury also seeps into breastmilk, food chains, and wastewater, contaminating water and soil. As skin-lightening products are expected to grow to an $11.8-billion industry by 2026, it is more important than ever to address the harmful chemicals in such products.

World Health Organization

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