Groups Laud FDA Ban on 50 Mercury-Tainted Skin Whitening Products

(Dean Jocelyn Palacpac of the UP College of Pharmacy, FDA Director Suzette Lazo and PDS President Teresita Gabriel at a recent Senate hearing on safe drugs and cosmetics.)

(Recalled skin whitening products purchased by the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol from various retail outlets.)

A professional group promoting skin safety and a toxic watchdog jointly commended the country’s food and drug regulators for taking action against health-damaging skin whitening products.

The Philippine Dermatological Society (PDS), the only specialty society in dermatology recognized by the Philippine Medical Association, and the EcoWaste Coalition welcomed the latest move by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to rid the market of skin lightening creams with added mercury, a heavy metal.

Mercury in cosmetics can cause serious dermal problems such as skin discoloring, itchiness and scarring, weaken skin resistance to bacterial and fungal maladies, and damage the renal and nervous systems, including the brain, from repeated applications.

“We laud the latest action by the FDA to notify and safeguard our consumers from sure harm resulting from mercury exposure in cosmetics. The PDS is one with the EcoWaste Coalition and FDA in promoting mercury-free cosmetics for the health and wellbeing of our people,” said Dr. Ma. Teresita Gabriel, President of PDS.

“FDA’s public health action against mercury in personal care products deserves the full support of all sectors. Let’s rally behind the FDA and promote toxic awareness and vigilance among consumers of cosmetics,” said Roy Alvarez, President, EcoWaste Coalition.

Given the resource limitations of the FDA, both the EcoWaste Coalition and the PDS urged the local government units and law enforcement agencies such as the Bureau of Customs, National Bureau of Investigation and Philippine National Police to help in ensuring that recalled products are not offered for sale to unwary consumers.

“On the basis of the latest FDA advisory, law enforcers can conduct police operations similar to what they did in Baclaran and Quiapo to implement the ban on deadly cyanide-laced silver jewelry cleaning solutions,” Alvarez added.

The FDA last Thursday, August 4, banned 23 more skin whitening products for exceeding the national regulatory limit of 1 ppm for mercury in cosmetics, expanding the list of proscribed products to 50.

11 of these 50 were tested recently by the EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN and were found to contain mercury from 1,085 ppm to 28,600 ppm.

The banned products were manufactured or imported from mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and USA. Some of the products did not specify the country of origin on their labels.

According to FDA Advisory 2011-012 signed by Director Suzette Lazo, the banned items “pose imminent danger or injury to the consuming public and the importation, selling, or offering for sale of such is a violation of Republic Act 9711 or the FDA Act of 2009.”