Mercury is heavy metals that can be found naturally in the environment. Mercury is a chemical element that occurs in nature and can be found almost everywhere in the environment. Mercury is metal which is liquid at ordinary temperature; in fact it is liquid at 298 Kelvin. Mercury is sometimes called quicksilver because of its silvery-white appearance. It is naturally occurring heavy, odorless, lustrous liquid metal found in three forms: metallic; inorganic and organic. In terms of toxicity, organic form of mercury is more toxic than inorganic form is more toxic than elemental form. These days large numbers of lighting bulbs such as CFL and Tube light does uses of mercury in vapor forms. It is a rather poor conductor of heat if compared with other metals but it is a fair conductor of electricity. It alloys easily with many metals, such as gold, silver, and titanium. These alloys are called amalgams.
Impacts of Mercury on Human Health
The main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage. Mercury in skin lightening products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin's resistance to bacterial and fungal infections. Other effects include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy. The medical literature reports specific instances of individuals suffering from the aforementioned health effects following exposure to mercury through skin lightening creams and soaps.
One case report describes a 34-year-old Chinese woman who developed nephritis syndrome, a condition marked by high levels of protein in the urine. The mercury levels in her blood and urine returned to normal one month and nine months, respectively, after she stopped using the skin lightening cream. Similarly according to the China Central Television (CCTV) report dated 14 May 2012, one of the women Wang from north China's Shanxi province discovered swelling in her eye and face last October. Doctors diagnosed her with nephritis syndrome caused by mercury poisoning, and it was deduced that this mercury content was in the whitening cosmetics she used.
One study indicated a large proportion of nephritis syndrome among African women using ammonia mercuric chloride containing skin lightening creams for periods ranging from one month to three years. Over three quarters of the women who stopped using the creams went into remission. Mercury in soaps, creams and other cosmetic products is eventually discharged into waste water. The mercury then enters the environment, where it becomes methylated and enters the food-chain as the highly toxic methyl mercury in fish. Pregnant women who consume fish containing methyl mercury transfer the mercury to their fetuses, which can later result in neuro-developmental deficits in the children. Exposure
to inorganic mercury can be quantised through measurements in blood and urine. According to the World Health Organization, mercury in cosmetics can lead to kidney damage, depression, anxiety, mental disorders, a deteriorating immune system and other disorders.
Symptoms of mercury poisoning have resulted from the use of various mercury-containing cosmetic products. In Hong Kong in 2002, two products were discovered to contain between 9,000 to 60,000 times the recommended doses. In 2010, the newspaper named as Chicago Tribune in U.S.A collected the 50 samples of skin whitening creams and sent to a certified lab for testing and found that six were found to contain the amount of mercury banned by federal law. The six creams that tested high in the Tribune tests were manufactured in Lebanon, China, India, Pakistan and Taiwan.
The use of mercury in cosmetics, however, was banned in Europe in 1976 and years later in the United States after the discovery of its dangerous effects on the body. Such products are also banned in the UAE and recently also in Malaysia. Mercury poisoning manifests through these symptoms: frenzy, sore mouth and gums, tiredness, fatigue and memory loss. It also leads to kidney problems and affects the nervous system.
Mercury in Skin Whitening Cream, 2012