City now the toxic whitening cosmetics capital of the Philippines?
The EcoWaste Coalition, a watchdog group against mercury in consumer products, raised
the specter after finding imported, mercury-laden skin lightening creams
without market authorization that are openly sold in the city.
“The open display and sale of these mercury-tainted skin cosmetics gives
a clear indication that such dangerous products are sold with impunity in Cebu
City,” observed Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project
“As the major commercial hub in Central Visayas, we fear that Cebu City may be
unwittingly being dragged into such unlawful trade of mercury-laced cosmetics
that can pose serious health risks to consumers and the environment,” he
In a report to Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, Councilors Nida Cabrera, Alvin
Dizon and Lea Japson and Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) Director Kenneth
Hartigan Go, the group expressed serious concern about the unchecked sale of unauthorized
skin whitening cosmetics that may expose uninformed consumers to
dangerous levels of mercury, a highly toxic chemical.
The group urged the Cebu City Government, in collaboration with the Cebu City
Council, the FDA and the police authorities, to take immediate action to stop
the illegal sale of mercury-containing cosmetics in Cebu City, as well as other
cosmetics and personal care products with no market authorization from the FDA.
In test buys conducted by the group on June 15 and 16, 2014, the group managed
to procure 13 imported brands of skin whitening cosmetics from 999 General
Merchandise (Colon St. cor. Osmeña Blvd.), 138 Mall (Colon St.), Yong Jiang General Pharmacy
(Zamora St.) and Worldwide Pharmacy (Magallanes St.).
Out of these 13 products, 11 were found to contain elevated levels of mercury ranging
from 3,218 parts per million (ppm) to 13,900 ppm, way above the ASEAN threshold
limit of 1 ppm for mercury in cosmetics.
A handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device was used to screen the
products for mercury.
Among the 11 products found contaminated
with high levels of mercury were: , 1) Erna Whitening Cream, 2) Flower Woman 7-Day Whitening & Spot Day
and Night Cream Set, 3) Huayuenong 12-Day Whitening & Speckle Removing
Wrecking Set, 4 ) Jiaoli Huichusu Intensive Whitening, Sunscreen and Spots
Removing Set, 5) Jiaoli Professional
Herbs Essence Whitening AB Set, 6) Jiaoli Speckle Dispelling & Whitening
Cream4), 7) Mifton, 8) S’Zitang (single jar), 9) S’Zitang 7-Day Specific Whitening & Spot A
B Set, 10) S’Zitang Yang Bai Su, and 11)
Women of Flower 7-Day Effective Speckle Removing Series.
The other two
samples had no detectable levels of mercury based on the XRF screening, but
made false product claims in violation of the Consumer Act of the Philippines
and the Food and Drugs Administration Act.
According to their labels, Jiaoli Extra Pearl Facial Cream is “BFAD
approved,” while Top-Gel Rose Oil Extra Pearl Cream is supposedly registered
with “BFAD.” BFAD (Bureau of Food and Drugs) is the old
name of the FDA.
Like the 11 other products, the two items are not listed on the FDA database of
notified cosmetics. According to the
FDA, “all cosmetic products that do not pass the FDA safety and quality
evaluation do not comply with the requirements of the Code of Good
Also, some of the products in question are already banned by the FDA for
containing injurious amounts of mercury or for lack of required market
notification. These are 1) Erna
Whitening Cream, 2) Flower Woman 7-Day
Whitening & Spot Day and Night Set Cream, 3) Huayuenong 12-Day Whitening
& Speckle Removing Wrecking Set, 4) Jiaoli Speckle Dispelling &
Whitening Cream and 5) S’Zitang.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “the main adverse effect of
the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney
damage. Mercury in skin lightening
products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well
as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to
bacterial and fungal infections.
Other effects include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral
“Mercury in soaps, creams and other cosmetic products is eventually discharged
into wastewater. The mercury then enters
the environment, where it becomes methylated and enters the food-chain as the highly toxic
methylmercury in fish. Pregnant women who
consume fish containing methylmercury transfer the mercury to their
fetuses, which can later result in
neurodevelopmental deficits in the children,” the WHO further said.