A World Health Organisation report on the danger of mercury in skin lightening soaps and creams has revealed that over 77 per cent of Nigerians use such products on a regular basis.
The report, published this month by the organisation on its website, further shows that it is followed by Togo with 59 per cent; South Africa, 35 per cent; and Mali, 25 per cent.
In a similar vein, the organisation has issued a warning against skin lightening soaps, creams and cosmetics like eye makeup, cleansing products and mascara, saying they could be containing mercury.
It cites the adverse effects of inorganic mercury — a common ingredient found in skin lightening soaps and creams. The effects include kidney damage, reduction in the skin resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, anxiety, depression, psychosis and peripheral neuropathy.
Others are skin rashes, swelling of the skin, irritation, seizures, numbness, pain tremors and memory loss. According to WHO, once the chemicals get absorbed into the skin and enter the blood stream, the complications are worse.
Carolyn Vickers of WHO Chemical Safety Department says, “Mercury in soaps and creams eventually enters waste water and then enters the food chain as highly toxic methyl mercury.
“The mercury enters environment, where it becomes methylated, and enters the food chain as highly toxic methylmercury in fish. Pregnant women who consume fish containing methyl mercury transfer the mercury to their foetuses that can later result in neurological deficits in children,” the report states.
It adds that lightening soaps and creams are commonly used in some African and Asian nations and dark-skinned populations in Europe and North America. Mercury salts work by inhibiting the formation of melanin, resulting in a lighter skin tone.
It is also reported that some women use these