Due to the general fact that most Ghanaian babies are born dark, women are now taking pills while in pregnancy to lighten the skin of their unborn babies.

Medical experts however stated that these illegal drugs can cause birth defects, including damage to limbs and internal organs.

The country`s Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) says using Glutathione pills for this purpose is dangerous, adding it wants “the general public to know that no product has been approved by the FDA in the form of a tablet to lighten the skin of the unborn child”.

“The use of these drugs has gone to an alarming stage; it is ignorance that is making people do so,” the FDA’s head of cosmetics and household chemicals, Emmanuel Nkrumah, said at a media-sensitisation workshop on unapproved bleaching pills and products.

“[The only things] that you take orally should be food, toothpaste and mouthwash, and not bleaching pills,” Nkrumah said.

The practice is growing in Ghana, according to the FDA, with pills often smuggled into the country inside luggage at airports in large quantities.

Although comprehensive data has not yet been gathered, the body says market surveillance and stakeholder activity have helped to reveal the trend among women crosses socio-economic divides.

Security agencies and police are working together to arrest and prosecute companies and individuals in possession of the illegal tablets.

Ghana hit the headlines last month when candidates for jobs in the immigration service were disqualified from the recruitment process if they bleached skin or stretch marks, for fear they might bleed during the “strenuous” training.