The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has backed an initiative to end the use of mercury in skin lightening products.
Gabon, Sri Lanka and Jamaica have come together to end the use of the harmful chemical in the beauty industry.
The $14 million (£11.6m) project was launched after the UNEP released data stating 300 products from 22 countries exceeded the approved level in mercury in these products.
Skin lightening products are popular worldwide for both changing complexions but also to get rid of blemishes and treat acne.
The UNEP has stated the use of mercury needs to end not just for health and environmental reasons but to promote the beauty of all skin tones.
“Companies continue to manufacture, trade and sell toxic products to consumers,” UNEP’s Sheila Aggarwal-Khan said.
A three-year project will be led by the UNEP, working alongside the World Health Organisation to better scrutinise products being sold and cut the chemical from mainstream use.
In addition to the general health risks of using the products on your skin, the UNEP has revealed that the mercury can pollute water being washed off down the sink and lead to babies being exposed to it through breastmilk.
The Global Environment Facility has provided funding for the initiative, with its Chief Executive Officer, Carlos Rodriguez stating: “This focuses not only on substitutions for harmful ingredients – but on awareness building that can help change behaviours that are damaging to individual health as well as the planet.”