Mercury and Skin Creams

Mercury and Skin Creams

Context: Recent research conducted in Kerala has highlighted that the use of skin lightening creams containing mercury is linked to serious health issues, particularly kidney damage.


• A study published in Kidney International reported 15 cases of Membranous Nephropathy (MN) associated with regular use of fairness creams.
• Heavy metal screening revealed elevated levels of mercury in the blood and urine samples of affected individuals.
• Mercury present in fairness creams acts by inhibiting the formation of melanin, resulting in a lighter skin tone.
• The cultural obsession with fair skin drives the demand for such products, leading to widespread use despite known health risks.
• Patients typically experienced non-specific symptoms like fatigue, mild edema, and frothy urine.
• High levels of proteinuria (protein in urine) were observed, indicating kidney damage. Global Public Health Concern:
• The use of toxic cosmetic creams is a significant issue, particularly in African and Asian countries.
• Despite being banned by the Minamata Convention on Mercury, mercury-containing skin lightening products continue to be sold by major online retailers.
• The lack of awareness and reluctance to discontinue the use of fairness creams pose challenges in addressing this widespread problem.

About Mercury Metal:

Physical PropertiesChemical PropertiesUses of Mercury Metal
Mercury is silvery-white and forms
droplets, not spreading like water.
Relatively unreactive with
air, water, and many acids
Thermometers: High thermal
expansion properties.
Liquid at standard conditions
(melting point: -38.83°C, boiling
point: 356.73°C).
Reacts with strong acids,
halogens, and sulfur
Barometers: Measure
atmospheric pressure.
Density of approximately 13.5
g/cm³ (over 13 times denser than
Forms amalgams with
other metals.
Electrical Equipment: Switches
and relays (phased out).
Dental Amalgams: Filling
cavities in dentistry. 
  Chemical Processes: Production
of chlorine and sodium
Artisanal Gold Mining: Used in
gold extraction (environmental


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