The Health Ministry in Barbados has warned residents against the increased use of bleaching creams, saying that, with some of these products, they could be exposing themselves to the poisonous metal mercury.
The caution has come in the wake of concerns raised by researchers from the University of Laval, Quebec, Canada. They conducted a Caribbean Eco-health Project which sought to evaluate mercury exposure from fish consumption among a sample of persons from within a fishing community in Barbados. This was done by measuring trace amounts of mercury in hair and urine.
“The study revealed higher than average levels of mercury in the hair and urine of four of the 50 participants. Further investigations into the lifestyles of the affected individuals suggested that the above average levels of mercury which were detected had not resulted from fish consumption and that the most probable exposure had been from use of bleaching creams,” a statement from the ministry said.
Mercury is a heavy metal which is known to be poisonous when it enters the body. Skin bleaching creams which contain it should not be used for long periods of time since this element can start accumulating in the cells of the body.
According to the Ministry of Health, too much mercury exposure could lead to liver damage and kidney failure. Noting that most over-the-counter bleaching creams were generally recommended for short-term use, with some stipulating a period not exceeding four weeks, it has advised individuals against using these creams on large areas of the skin and for prolonged periods of time. [. . .] The health authorities in Barbados have further warned that, in addition to containing mercury, skin bleaching creams may have as ingredients hydroquinone, benzoyl peroxide, and hydrogen peroxide which can cause serious side effects when used inappropriately.