The illegal sale of imported skin whitening products previously recalled by the government for containing elevated amounts of mercury, a highly toxic chemical, has not ceased.
The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxic watchdog, made this conclusion after being able to buy seven of the forbidden cosmetics at various shops inside the Baclaran Terminal Plaza Mall in Pasay City.
“Several months have already passed since these mercury-laced skin lightening products were banned for posing imminent danger or injury to consumers and we can still purchase them like ordinary personal care products,” an exasperated Aileen Lucero, project staff of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT, said.
“We urge consumers to seek out mercury-free cosmetics to safeguard their own health, and we beg the government to intensify their action against recalcitrant vendors,” she added.
Last Sunday, September 5, the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol bought samples of the proscribed items in Good Year Chinese Drug Store in Pasilio K and in three beauty product shops located in Pasilio B-55, C-39 and D-04 of the popular shopping center adjacent to the Light Rail Transit (LRT) terminal in Baclaran.
This is the fifth time this year that the AlerToxic Patrol conducted test buys in Metro Manila to check business compliance to the directives issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banning mercury-tainted skin whitening creams and lotions.
Among the banned products still on sale in Baclaran include 1) Gemli Glutathione Grapeseed Extract Whitening and Anti-Aging Cream, 2) Jiaoli Huichusu Whitening Speckles Remover Cream, 3) Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, 4) Jiao Yan Specific Miraculous Cream, 5) JJJ Magic Spots Removing Cream, 6) S’Zitang 10-day Whitening and Spot Day/Night Set, and 7) Yinni Green Tea Quick Acting Whitener and Speckle Remover Package.
The FDA issued three Circulars this year banning various skin lightening products, mostly imported from China, for containing excessive levels of mercury in direct violation of R.A. 9711 or the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009.
In response to the EcoWaste Coalition’s market surveillance last July, FDA Director Nazarita Tacandong told the group in her letter dated August 27, 2010 that “as part of quality check, we conduct regular monitoring of cosmetic products in the market and recently we have confiscated banned products as cited in our Circulars 2010-002, 2010-004 and 2010-011.”
“Other suspicious cosmetics products have been collected for laboratory analysis to check for the presence of heavy metals in accordance to the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive,” she added.
Mercury use in cosmetics products, according to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), can have adverse effects including skin rashes, discolouring and scarring and can reduce skin’s resistance to bacterial and mycotic skin disorders.
The UNEP publication “Mercury in Products and Wastes” also warned that direct and prolonged exposure through the skin during repeated applications can cause damage to the brain, nervous system and kidneys.
The safest protection, UNEP advised, is not to use such products.
If you do use skin lightening products, only use those with labels that you understand and that do not contain mercury or mercury compounds, UNEP further said.
FDA Circulars 2010-002, 2010-004 and 2010-011:
UNEP Mercury in Product and Wastes: