EcoWaste Coalition Warns against Kidney Damage due to Mercury Exposure in Skin Whitening Creams

Aside from the
more visible red blotchy skin, scar and uneven pigmentation, chronic exposure
to mercury in skin whitening cosmetics may result in kidney damage and impaired
renal function, a watchdog group for chemical safety and environmental health
The EcoWaste Coalition drew attention to this medical fact as the National
Kidney Month is observed this June under the auspices of the Department of
Health and the National Kidney and Transplant Institute.
To demonstrate how some skin
whitening creams are terribly contaminated with mercury, the group conducted
test buys in Caloocan, Makati, Manila, Marikina, Parañaque, Pasay and Quezon Cities on June 10-12 and
screened the products for mercury using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF)
The group’s latest initiative is also part of their continuing campaign to push
for the early implementation and ratification of the Minamata Convention on
Mercury that the Philippine government signed in October 2013.
“To protect the kidneys, we urge consumers to steer clear of contraband cosmetics
such as facial whitening creams with hidden mercury content,” said Aileen
Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
“These toxic creams, which are often religiously applied at night and in the
morning, may lead to mercury accumulation in the body causing not only dermal,
but also renal and central nervous system toxicity,” she said. 
Citing a fact sheet on “Mercury in Skin Lightening Products” published by the
World Health Organization, the EcoWaste Coalition said that “the
main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps
and creams is kidney damage.”
According to medical
literature, the inorganic mercury that enters the human body is deposited in
the kidneys causing damage to the renal system, including acute tubular
necrosis, nephrotic syndrome and reversible proteinuria.  
Based on the XRF screening conducted, the following products were found to
exceed the allowable limit of one part per million (ppm) for mercury in
cosmetics under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive:
1. BG Sea Pearl & Papaya 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Sun
Block Cream with 50,500 ppm mercury
2. Yudantang Ginseng
and Green Cucumber 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence with 40,100 ppm mercury
3. Golden Pearl Beauty Cream
with 9,961 ppm mercury 
4.  S’zitang 10-Day Whitening & Spot
Day Night Set with 3,293 ppm mercury
5.  Bai Li Tou Hong with 3,244 ppm
6.  Mifton with 2,780 ppm mercury
7.  Sara Glutathione Sheep Placenta
Whitening & Anti-Spot with 2,259 ppm mercury
8.  Jiaoli 7-Day Specific Eliminating
Freckle AB Set with 2,208 ppm mercury
9. JJJ Magic Spots Removing Cream with 1,660 ppm mercury
10. Sanli Eliminating Freckle Cream with 1,498 ppm mercury 
The above products have no
market authorization from the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) and banned by
the agency due to their mercury content. 
As these cosmetics have mercury levels above the permissible limit, the
EcoWaste Coalition urged users to immediately discontinue using these products
and to consult licensed dermatologists or other health-care professionals for
To prevent kidney damage and other adverse health effects, the group advised consumers
to carefully read cosmetics labels and reject products of unknown composition
or from doubtful sources, especially illegal imports that are aplenty in the
The group appealed to non-compliant Chinese 
medicine  stores,  general 
merchandise  retailers  and 
beauty  and  herbal 
supplement shops where most of these illegal imports are often sold to
stop the unlawful trade and to offer only safe cosmetics with market
authorization from the FDA.