UN Aims to Eliminate Mercury From Skin Lightening Products

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has announced that the governments of Gabon, Jamaica, and Sri Lanka have joined forces to fight back against damaging beauty practices, launching a joint U.S.$14-million project to eliminate the use of mercury in skin-lightening products. Mercury poses significant risks to human health and the environment.

UNEP will lead the three-year project, with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), and executed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI). The Eliminating mercury skin lightening products project will work to reduce the risk of exposure to mercury-added skin lightening products, raising awareness of the health risks associated with their use, developing model regulations to reduce their circulation, and halting production, trade, and distribution across domestic and international markets.

UNEP added that skin-lightening products don't just pose a risk to the user - children can be exposed through breastmilk, and food chains can become contaminated when cosmetics are washed off into wastewater. In addition, the compound can travel far from its point of dispersal, accumulating in the earth, water, and soil without breaking down in the environment.


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