In test buys conducted in Divisoria, Manila on September 10, the EcoWaste Coalition got to purchase seven skin whitening products containing mercury up to 46,200 parts per million (ppm), which is over and above the allowable limit of 1 ppm.
“We deplore the sale of these dangerous cosmetics to unsuspecting consumers. To help stop the illegal trade, we request the City Council to speed up the enactment of a pending ordinance that seeks to stop the illegal sale of injurious mercury-containing cosmetics in Manila with harsh penalties,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
The group, which has been tracking the illegal trade in mercury-laden cosmetics since 2010, found huge amounts of mercury in seven of the eight products bought for P120 to P240 each from beauty product shops in 168 Shopping Mall and 999 Shopping Mall, in one retail shop in Roman St. and in one Chinese drug store at the corner of Recto Avenue and Roman St., Divisoria.
According to the World Health Organization, mercury can cause kidney damage and may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections. It can also cause harm to the cardiovascular, digestive, gastrointestinal, nervous and respiratory systems.
Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, the group detected mercury in the following products:
1. Beauty Girl Ginseng & Green Cucumber 10 Days Double Whitening Speckles Removed Essence, 46,200 ppm of mercury (Benson Chinese Drug Store, Recto Ave. cor. Roman St., P130);
2. Yudantang Milk & Papaya 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence, 11,300 ppm of mercury (bought from Benson Chinese Drug Store, Recto Ave. cor. Roman St., P130);
3. Sara Glutathione Sheep Placenta Whitening and Anti-Spot Cream, 3,933 ppm of mercury (Stall 1M-11, 999 Shopping Mall, P150; also available at Stall 2G-8);
4. Beauty Girl Egg White & Tomato 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Cream, 3,592 ppm of mercury (Stall IR-24, 168 Shopping Mall. P120);
5. Miss Beauty Excellent Therapy Whitening Cream (Blue), 2,207 ppm of mercury (1005 Roman St., P180); and
6. Miss Beauty Excellent Therapy Whitening Cream (Purple), 1,343 ppm of mercury (1005 Roman St., P180).
7. Liliki Whitening Day Cream 911, 133 ppm of mercury (Fabie General Merchandise, Stall 21-11 2/F, 168 Shopping Mall, P240);
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recalled the Beauty Girl Ginseng & Green Cucumber in 2010 and the Beauty Girl Egg White & Tomato, Liliki, Miss Beauty and Sara products in 2011. The agency has yet to ban the Yudantang product.
While all the products provided labeling information about their product ingredients, none listed mercury as an active agent.
Quoting the “Epidemiological Alert: Mercury in Skin Lightening Products” by the World Health Organization (WHO), the EcoWaste Coalition said that “the main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage.”
The WHO had warned that “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 neuropathy.”
“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.
Additional information about the draft “Ordinance to Stop the Illegal Sale of Injurious Mercury-Containing Cosmetics in the City of Manila” filed by Councilor Numero Lim in March 2012:
– prohibits the trade of mercury-tainted creams, lotions and soaps that are designed to lighten or whiten the color of the skin, and imposes harsh penalties to violators;
– penalizes individual violators with imprisonment from one to 10 years or a fine from P50,000 to P500,000;
-penalizes manufacturers, importers and distributors with imprisonment of five to 10 years and the fine of P500,000 to P5,000,000; and
– bans the open dumping, open burning and/or disposal of banned, recalled and/or confiscated mercury-containing cosmetics in regular municipal solid waste.