Skin Lightening Products
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Environmental Health Division
Skin Lightening Products Public Awareness and Education Grant
The purpose of the Skin Lightening Products Public Awareness and Education Grant is to increase public awareness and education on the health dangers associated with using skin lightening products that contain mercury that are manufactured in other countries and brought into the United States and sold illegally online or in stores. Grantees must use the funds to conduct public awareness and education activities that are culturally specific and community-based and focus on:
- Potential exposure to mercury from skin lightening products
- The dangers of exposure to mercury through dermal absorption, inhalation, hand-to-mouth contact, and through contact with individuals who have used these skin lightening products
- The signs and symptoms of mercury poisoning
- The health effects of mercury poisoning, including the permanent effects on the central nervous system and kidneys
- The dangers of using these products or being exposed to these products during pregnancy and breastfeeding to the mother and to the infant
- Knowing how to identify products that contain mercury
- Proper disposal of the product if the product contains mercury
Funding for these grants is provided under Minnesota Laws 2019, First Special Session chapter 9, section 109. The Skin Lightening Products Awareness and Education Grant Program will award $200,000. From the grant, 50% of the funds will be awarded to community-based organizations and non-profit organizations and 50% of the funds will be awarded to local public health entities.
Community-based organizations and non-profit organizations
The Beautywell Project
The Beautywell Project is a community-based organization that was founded to address the issue of skin-lightening practice and chemical exposures in communities of color. Beautywell uses multi-approach to combat skin-lightening practices and chemical exposures – community engagement by educating and empowering communities to embrace their identity, end colorism by redefining beauty standards and improve their health literacy, as well as policy, system and environmental changes. Beautywell’s work influenced local, state, federal and international policy changes for establishing skin-lightening practice and chemical exposures as a public health issue. The Skin-lightening Products Public Awareness and Education Grant will support Beautywell’s work to continue educating communities about the harmful effects of skin-lightening practices and mercury exposures. It will also help the organization expand their outreach and education to Greater Minnesota.
Learn more about The Beautywell Project.
With a mission to partner with diverse communities to promote health and well-being, WellShare uses a community health worker model to increase access to culturally appropriate health services and create environments that support desirable outcomes for refugee and immigrant communities in Minnesota and overseas. WellShare CHWs are trusted, bilingual/bicultural workers who are trained and certified to serve as a bridge between community members and social services. WellShare staff are deeply connected to the issue of skin lightening products and the harms of mercury exposure, and believe that the target audience understands the use of these products the best. In close partnership with the community, WellShare will design print and multi-media engagement tools and leverage social media to engage the younger generation in messages about the harms of mercury exposure. Through the launch of a video contest, WellShare will connect with existing social media influencers to increase awareness and inspire behavior change among Somali/Somali-American women and the broader community. Finally, through WellShare's network of Community Health Workers, it will mobilize additional health professionals to educate about the dangers of skin lightening products and spread accurate information around safer products to inspire broader behavior change in Minnesota.
Learn more about WellShare International.
Local public health entities
Dakota County Public Health
Dakota County Public Health will be utilizing funds from the Skin Lighting Products Public Awareness and Education Grant to learn more about the usage of skin lightening products in the area with a focus on Latino, African and Asian/Pacific Islander community members. Dakota County Public Health will plan and host sessions with community members, primary care providers, public health nurses, WIC staff and school nurses to have open discussions about skin lightening products and to share the dangers of mercury exposure. Dakota County community health workers will play an essential role recruiting for these sessions and leading subsequent educational activities including staffing resource tables at community health fairs and events. The department will also promote safe disposal of these mercury-containing products by setting up two safe disposal collection bins in public spaces and developing educational materials for community members.
Learn more about Dakota County Public Health.
Minneapolis Health Department
The Minneapolis Health Department (MHD) will work through its established channels to educate young people ages 14-19 and their parents and families who are participants in MHD programs about the dangers of skin lightening products and practices. The primary goal for MHD is to reduce the use of skin lightening products and practices in the target populations (East African, Latinx, and SE Asian youth and families living in Minneapolis) and thereby reduce exposure to their families while also communicating safe disposal options. MHD will educate through its School Based Clinic Program (SBC) in conjunction with the SBC active 25-member Youth Council and the Youth Coordinating Board with its Minneapolis Youth Congress. MHD will also educate through two groups that conduct home visits: the MHD Lead and Healthy Home Team and Hennepin Healthcare’s Minnesota Visiting Nurse Agency (MVNA) Public Health Nurses. A secondary goal is to educate licensed and unlicensed retail stores that sell these products with the goal of decreasing consumer access to these products. MHD and the City of Minneapolis’s Business Licensing Department will educate retailers selling these products. A buy-back program will be offered to retailers to get these products off the shelf and disposed of properly. After education and outreach, enforcement actions will take place when necessary. MHD will contract with Beautywell to train City staff working on this grants and the MHD contracted partners working with the target populations about skin lightening products and practices.
Learn more about Minneapolis Health Department.