At least 50 per cent of the skin-brightening products available in Bangladesh are unsafe for skin as well as health due to containing a dangerous level of mercury content, said study.
According to the study, the mercury content in one in every two such creams purchased in Bangladesh exceeds the permissible limit which is 1ppm (parts per million) laid out in the Minamata Convention, a new report by the Zero Mercury Working Group revealed on Thursday.
Of the total products imported from other countries, Pakistani products contain the highest amount of mercury followed by Taiwan and China, according to the study.
Of the imported products purchased and used in the country, ‘Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene’, ‘Due Beauty Cream,’ ‘Golden Pearl Beauty Cream,’ Faiza Beauty Cream, and ‘Hoor! Whitening Cream’ from Pakistan contain 16,353ppm, 11,940ppm, 9,648ppm, 9,053pmm and 1,083ppm mercury respectively.
Among the Taiwan’s products, Huayenong — Bird’s Nest Cosmetology of Taiwan contains 10,749ppm, Egg White and Cherry 7 Days Specific (Eliminating Freckle Whitening Cream) 5,271ppm, and Green Tea Whitening Anti-freckle Cream contains 5,068 ppm, while China’s Temulawak New Beauty White Cream (Night Cream) contains 1,884ppm mercury and Jiaulihuic Hunsu Jioli Miraculous contains 711ppm.
Bangladesh topped the ranking (50 per cent) followed by Dominican Republic and Indonesia, where high levels of mercury concentrations were found in 33 per cent and 31 per cent skin-lightening products respectively.
For the study, a total of 338 skin-lightening creams from 22 countries were collected by seventeen of non-governmental organisation (NGO) partners from around the world and tested for mercury in 2017 and 2018, the Zero Mercury Working Group said.
In Mauritius, one out of 15 creams was found having more than 1ppm (7 per cent) mercury content while 19 per cent of the Philippines’ samples exceeded 1ppm. Thai samples reached 63 per cent and in Trinidad and Tobago, 20 per cent of the samples tested exceeded the Minamata Convention limits.
Sampling was carried out following the established protocol in 2017 and further streamlined in 2018.
The study found 34 creams (10 per cent of the samples) containing mercury concentrations ranging between 93 ppm and 16,353 ppm.
These levels significantly exceeded not only the legal standards established by countries that regulate these products, but the provisions set forth in the Minamata Convention, too, by disallowing after 2020 the “manufacture, import or export” of cosmetics with a mercury content above 1ppm.
“Mercury is well known toxic and a serious risk to human health,” said Dr Shahriar Hossain, Secretary General of Environment and Social Development Organization (ESDO).
Dr Shahriar also said, “Skin-lightening creams containing mercury can lead to rashes, skin discolouration and blotching. Long-term exposure can cause serious health consequences, including damage to the skin, eyes, lungs, kidneys, digestive, immune and nervous systems.’’
ESDO Chairperson Syed Marghub Murshed said, “Skin-lightening creams are pushing the youths towards serious health risks and environmental havoc.
He urged the government to take regulatory and legislative steps to address this issue.