Colorism, the bias that whiter skin is better, manifests itself in sales of skin whitening creams. This video from CNN shows how these creams are marketed to both male and female Indians. Filipinos are also plagued with colorism and are also consumers of skin whitening creams. I have always thought that colorism and skin whitening were damaging to the the psyches of people of color. It turns out that some whitening creams can be physically damaging too, and California health officials are investigating skin whiteners after a woman’s mercury poisoning.
Some skin whiteners include mercury because mercury inhibits the production of melanin, which gives skin its color. Prolonged mercury exposure can lead to neurological problems and death. The woman who was poisoned was a Latina woman who had gotten her skin whitener from relatives from Mexico.
California officials will be testing a sampling of skin whiteners for mercury. They will be targeting business catering to three priority groups: Chinese, Filipinos, and Latinos. In 2010, the Chicago Tribune found that six skin whitening products had mercury, and were manufactured in Lebanon, China, Taiwan, Indian, and Pakistan.