Ecowaste says retailers continue to sell mercury-laden beauty products in Manila

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Skin whitening cosmetics allegedly containing high levels of toxic mercury above the trace amount limit of 1 ppm, according to Ecowaste Coalition. Photo from Ecowaste website

MANILA, Philippines — A non-profit watchdog Monday revealed that retailers were “flagrantly selling in broad daylight” allegedly contraband mercury-laden skin whitening products in Manila despite being warned by health authorities not to market the dangerous products.

The EcoWaste Coalition made the exposé following its latest market investigation to check on the trade of mercury-laden skin lightening cosmetics, which the group has been doing since 2011 to alert and protect consumers, especially women and girls, against mercury exposure.

The test buys conducted last week netted 10 brands of imported skin whitening products without the required cosmetic product notifications from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

These products are included in the list of over 135 skin whitening cosmetics banned by FDA for containing mercury above the maximum allowable limit of one part per million (ppm).

The products, costing P60 to P250 each, were obtained from stores selling beauty products and Chinese medicines located at or near well-known bargain shopping malls in Divisoria and Quiapo.

Mercury in the range of 517 to 25,300 ppm, way above the trace amount limit of 1 ppm, were detected on the samples as per chemical screening using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

“We urge consumers not to fall victim to the deceptive promises of these illegal cosmetic imports such as fairer skin complexion, treatment of acne, and the removal of aging spots, freckles and other skin woes,” said Thony Dizon, Ecowaste chemical safety campaigner.

Dizon cited, as an example, Goree Beauty Cream utterly false claim of “no side-effects” as indicated on the label although its mercury content was 25,300 times the permissible limit. On the contrary, using this product may cause serious side-effects, Dizon emphasized. The FDA last October 2017 banned two variants of Goree skin creams from Pakistan due to their mercury content.

Goree, as written on the label, “not only whitens the skin, it gives a glossy and pinkish teenage look.” Mercury was not on the ingredients’ list, and no precautionary warning was provided about the health effects of mercury exposure.

According to the World Health Organization, users of mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics may experience skin discoloration, rashes and scarring and reduced skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, while repeated applications can cause damage to the brain, the nervous system and the kidneys.

Symptoms of mercury poisoning may include change in the ability to taste, difficulty to concentrate, excessive shyness, weakened hearing and vision, insomnia, irritability, memory problems, numbness and tingling in hands, feet or around mouth, and tremors.

To avoid mercury exposure in cosmetics, the EcoWaste Coalition encouraged Filipinos to take pride in our natural skin complexion. “There is beauty and dignity in our ‘kayumangging kaligatan,’” the group pointed out.

If a fairer skin tone is really desired, the group advised consumers to seek medical advice from a licensed dermatologist, and to desist from using skin whitening cosmetics that have not gone through FDA’s quality and safety evaluation and are not guaranteed free of mercury and other health-damaging substances.

Below is the list of the 10 skin whitening cosmetics and their mercury content as per XRF screening, according to Ecowaste.

–Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene with SPF 30 Avocado & Aloe Vera, 25,300 ppm
–Goree Day & Night Whitening Cream Oil Free, 21,800 ppm
–Feique Herbal Extract Chinese Formula Whitening Anti-Freckle Set, 6,825 ppm
–Erna Whitening Cream,, 6,626 ppm
–S’Zitang Yangbaisu, 2,613 ppm
–Jiachuntang Ban Gan Jing Qu Ban Shuang, 2,363 ppm
–Women of Flower Whitening and Speckle-Removing A and B Series, 2,262 ppm
–Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, 2,227 ppm
–Jiaoli 7-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set, 2,132 ppm
–Collagen Plus Vit E Day & Night Cream, 517 ppm