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A five-month campaign to rid the streets of illegal bleaching products and to increase awareness about the dangers of using these items will begin next month.
To be undertaken by the Standards and Regulation Division in the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Jamaica Library Service, the campaign, dubbed ‘Don’t Kill the Skin,’ is part of observances for Black History Month.
Minister of Health, Horace Dalley, in a speech read by Legal Officer in the Ministry, Lilyclaire Bellamy, at today’s (Jan. 18) ‘Bleachers Beware’ lecture at the Tom Redcam Library in Kingston, noted that if left unaddressed, skin bleaching may amount to a health crisis.
“Skin bleaching has become a fast and risky way for young men and women to become beautiful. Many dermatologists are already reporting that some patients seek help far too late to reverse the damage already done to the skin. The Standards and Regulation Division intends to increase its inspection on businesses and individuals vendors to confiscate illegal pharmaceutical items,” Mr. Dalley said.
Most bleaching creams, he noted, contained hydroquinone, a chemical that was available only by prescription in Europe and was closely regulated in the United States. He said that prolonged use of creams containing this chemical, not only stopped the production of melanin, which gave the skin its dark pigment and provided protection and against sun damage, but also increased the likelihood of skin cancers.
“Already, skin cancer is ranked among the major causes of death in Jamaica and the rest of the region, and costs billions of dollars to treat annually,” he stated.
He further urged persons engaged in the practice of bleaching the skin to desist, noting that the skin was the largest organ of the body and as such it is important that persons protected their skin from harmful chemicals.
Meanwhile, Dr. Clive Anderson, Consultant Dermatologist and Venereologist at Nuttal Medical Centre, said that while there were certain skin conditions that required the dermatologist to use skin-lightening products, many people often abused these products.
He noted that sometimes, persons used these creams on the entire body including the genital areas, which overtime, may result in skin cancer, thinning of the skin, irreversible stretch marks, easy bruising and tearing of the skin, rashes, enlarged blood vessels, susceptibility to infection, delayed wound healing, hyper pigmentation, acne and hormonal disturbances.
Dr. Anderson pointed out that many persons not only used illegal bleaching products to achieve a lighter skin tone, but many also resort to the use of toothpaste, curry powder, bleach and skimmed milk as well as cornmeal.
“If is very worrying because a lot of persons know that they are doing severe damage to the skin and persist in it. Some of this damage is reversible; a lot of it is not reversible. We need to realize that when we use these products, we are doing our skin immeasurable harm. There is no advantage to lightning our skin colour and at the same time damaging our skin. Beautiful skin really is healthy skin, whatever the colour,” he stated.
Under the Food and Drug Act, persons found guilty of selling and distributing skin-lightening products that are not approved by the Ministry of Health, can be fined $50,000 per offence or be imprisoned.