(Top: 11 mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics that the EcoWaste Coalition has recommended for banning; bottom: 45 mercury-tainted cosmetics found by the group in test buys conducted in nine cities.)
Cosmetics that promise to make skin complexion lighter while eliminating acne, age spots, blemishes, freckles and wrinkles may make users and non-users sick due to mercury exposure.
The EcoWaste Coalition made this health warning after finding high levels of mercury in 45 out of 65 samples (69%) of imported skin whitening products representing 32 brands.
“Users of these toxic creams should know that they are putting their own health, as well as the health of the people around them, at risk,” said Aileen Lucero, Acting National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.
“Non-users, especially babies and young children, can be exposed to mercury when they inhale the vapors generated by the products, touch soiled items, kiss or pat a user’s skin and then put their fingers in their mouth,” she said.
The samples, costing P20 to P480 each, were purchased by the group’s AlerToxic Patrollers who scoured beauty product, herbal supplement and Chinese drug stores in Makati, Manila, Parañaque, Pasay and Quezon Cities, and in Dasmariñas, Imus, Cebu and Davao Cities, for these
supposedly skin care goods from July 22 to August 17, 2013.
The samples were analyzed for their mercury content using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, which should not exceed the 1 part per million (ppm) allowable limit under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive.
Mercury above the permissible limit was detected in 45 samples with the following products topping the list: 1) Yudantang 10 Days Sheep Essence& Ginseng & Green Cucumber Specific Eliminating Freckle Spot & Whitening Sun Block Cream with 41,800 ppm, 2) Yudantang 6 Days Green Cucumber & Ginseng Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Cream with 39,500 ppm, and Hengxueqian Whitening Set with 21,800 of mercury.
Of the 45 mercury-tainted samples, 8 were among the 16 brands banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last July 17, 2013 and 26 were among those banned in 2010, 2011 and 2012.
Of the 45 samples, 11 are not yet included in the list of 93 skin whitening creams banned by the FDA. The EcoWaste Coalition had recommended their immediate banning to the FDA to safeguard public health. These 11 products and their mercury levels include:
1) Zhjren Whitening Ruddy Combination Suit, 18,000 ppm
2) Zhjren 7 Day Beauty Elegant Moisturizing and Whitening Day Cream, 17,200 ppm
3) Erna Whitening Cream, 6,509 ppm
4) White Magnolia Intensive Repair Essence Powerful Spot Remover, 3,406 ppm
5) Jiaoli Speckle Dispelling and Whitening Cream, 3,042
6) Gemli Freckles Cream, 2,656 ppm
7) Jiaoli Huichunsu Specific Eliminating Freckle Cream, 2,095 ppm
8) Feique Herbal Extract Whitening Anti-Freckle Set, 1,869 ppm
9) Angel Placenta Whitening Cream, 1,369 ppm
10) Sanli Eliminating Freckle Cream, 1,240 ppm
11) LMSER Whitening Cream, 423 ppm
While negative for mercury, most of the other 20 samples (like the 45 mercury positive ones) have no market authorization from the FDA and excluded in the agency’s “list of notified cosmetic products.”
These include Baschi Day and Night Cream (mini trial set), Baschi Whitening Cream, Erna SPF (beige color), Erna SPF (pink ceramic color), Royalsuffi Fade-Out Day Cream, Top Shirley Nourishing Cream, Yi Lu Mei Activating Pock-Removing Beautifying Essence, Yu Yan
Excellent Intensive Night Cream and several types of Yoko Whitening Cream.
According to a Health Alert issued by the California Department of Health,“inorganic mercury in face cream is absorbed following application to the skin and toxic levels in the body can develop
gradually with prolonged use.”
The target organs for toxic effects are the central nervous system and kidneys, it said.
Signs and symptoms of mild to moderate toxicity due to inorganic mercury may include nervousness and irritability, difficulty with concentration, headache, tremors, memory loss, depression, insomnia, weight loss, fatigue and numbness or tingling in hands, feet, or
around the lips, it further said.
The EcoWaste Coalition had already alerted the FDA about its latest findings via e-mail.