12 October 2018, Quezon City. A toxics watch group slammed the illegal sale of skin whitening cosmetics laden with mercury by stores supposedly selling health-enhancing herbal products in Angono, Rizal.
The EcoWaste Coalition reported buying four brands of day and night skin whitening facial creams laden with mercury from Jhunbhel Herbal Shop and XC Health and Beauty Shop operating within major supermarkets at the town center.
“We’re disappointed to find mercury-laced skin whitening creams in Angono, which can pose serious health hazards to users and their families,” stated Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner,EcoWaste Coalition.
“This is the first time that we’ve found such health-damaging cosmetics banned by the government being sold in a town like Angono. Our previous studies only indicated their sale in big cities,” he added.
“We hope our latest findings will prompt national and local government authorities to conduct law enforcement action to protect consumers, particularly women, from these dangerous adulterated cosmetics,” he said.
On Thursday, October 11, the EcoWaste Coalition bought four samples of skin whitening creams costing P150 to P200 each from the said herbal and beauty product shops.
The products were subsequently screened for mercury using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device to determine compliance with the 1 part per million (ppm) trace amount limit for mercury under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury has scheduled the global phase-out by 2020 of cosmetics, including skin lightening creams and soaps, with mercury content above 1 ppm.
As per XRF screening, the “Women of Flower” whitening and speckle-removing cream had 3,272 ppm of mercury, the “S’Zitang” 10-day whitening set had 2,468 ppm, the “Jiaoli Miraculous Cream” had 2,267 ppm, and the “JJJ Magic Spots Removing Cream” had 735 ppm of mercury.
“It’s appalling to see products banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) being sold with official receipts provided as if these items are legal to sell,” said Dizon.
Dizon noted the FDA had banned JJJ and Jiaoli in 2010, and S’Zitang and Women of Flower in 2015 due to their mercury content. The FDA reiterated its ban on S’Zitang in May 2018.
According to a public health warning issued by the FDA, “mercury salts in cosmetic products inhibits the formation of skin melanin which will result to lighter skin tone.”
“Adverse health effects brought about by highly toxic mercury in cosmetics products include kidney damage, skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring,” the FDA said, adding that “chronic use reduces the skin’s normal resistance against bacterial and fungal infections.”
Other health effects of mercury exposure through the use of skin whitening cosmetics include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy, the agency said.
“The transfer of mercury to fetuses of pregnant women may manifest as neurodevelopment deficits later in life,” the FDA warned