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Skin Whitening and Prevalence of Mercury in Pakistan

by Rozzana.PK Store on February 23, 2022

A 2018 study done by Ministry of Climate Change (MOCC) and Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) Islamabad found that 56 out of 59 skin whitening brands commonly available in major cities in Pakistan contained mercury content above the the MCM (Minamata Convention on Mercury) permissible (1ppm) limit.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is an international treaty approved by delegates of over 140 countries in 2013 (including Pakistan). In simple terms, the treaty itself aims to protect people and the environment from the negative effects of mercury in products or from mercury pollution.

This study is often quoted in media regarding the state of the Pakistani beauty industry. While initiative was taken by the Punjab government with the launch of the Punjab Drug Amendment Bill 2020 there has been little sign of progress since then. There was a bit of news in February last year that the Punjab Cosmetics Control Bill 2021 would be tabled but progress (if indeed there is any) is slow.

Even so it is pertinent to note that these are just bills and even if they are introduced there is no guarantee that they will be passed and effectively become law. As such there is a lot of wishful thinking and speculation but little real action being taken regarding this problem.

No doubt the pandemic did not help matters and there are other significant and legitimate concerns that the esteemed assembly must direct their attention to as well. But we do hope that a real amendment will be passed soon that will help the regulate the beauty and skincare industry.

Disregarding the problem of counterfeit products (and indeed if we find any data on that we will be sure to share with you in a future post), the very real situation of commonly available cosmetics and skin care products having dangerously high levels of mercury, lead and other toxic or cancerous chemicals is not something to take lightly. We hope that in the interim companies will reformulate their products to use safer ingredients but while profits are to be made and there are no regulations to stop them there is little incentive to do so.

Indeed, there is little evidence of any such change being made in the past decade even though there has been a global trend towards organic and safe products worldwide. New companies may have launched with (what should be considered a pretty basic requirement) the express goal of providing safe and effective skincare or health care products and we hope if there is no regulation there may at least be a demand correction where the market shifts towards products that value the health and safety of the consumers.

However, as Pakistan is besieged with inflation and rising costs and considerations such as health and safety may require additional costs to provide it may just be another unrealized dream.