A project financed by Nordic Council of Ministers was carried out in Uganda 2007 dealing with health impacts caused by use of soaps containing mercury for bleaching dark skin.

Numerous women in sub-Saharan Africa use soaps containing mercury compound to bleach their skin. The mercury goes through their skin and reduces the melanin of the pigmentation. The mercury also causes damage to the body e.g. the nervous system. Mercury is particularly dangerous for the nervous system including the brain of a foetus. One of the most severe consequences is that during pregnancy the foetus will concentrate the mercury from its mother. Children born by mothers using skin bleaching soaps have therefore a high risk of being mentally and physically disabled. The use of mercury for skin bleaching thus not only causes severe health problems for sub-Saharan Africans, but also adds to the ever increasing amount of mercury in the drainage system and the oceans. The project was an information campaign aimed at female and male users of bleaching soaps. The Project used forum theatre on market places and information on secondary schools in Uganda. The project has proved very successful in informing black people of Uganda against the health and environmental hazards caused by using soaps containing mercury.

Peter Appel from Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland and Lena Bjørn (Story works) carried out the project together with a theatre group: International Anti-Corruption Theatre Movement, Based in Kampala. This collaboration group toured Uganda several times during 2007, with an information campaign against the use of soaps with mercury. The group has long experience in such information campaigns. A similar project was carried out in 2008 in Tanzania.

An awareness campaign among 1500 high school children was carried out by and NGO group Conflict Resolution by youth (CRY) – Uganda. The methods used comprised talks, debates, video shows, role plays and personal testimonies in order to change the attitude of young people

The project was terminated February 2008 and a comprehensive report was published by Nordic council of Ministers.

A documentary on Mercury soap can be downloaded here Mercury soap documentary (23.3MB)