An environmental and health watchdog has revealed that skin whitening products containing mercury, a brain, kidney and skin poison, are being sold in Quezon City in clear defiance of the government.
In test buys conducted in Quezon City from June 19 to 21, the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol managed to obtain 10 imported skin whitening creams, including 7 that were among those banned by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) in 2010-2013 for exceeding the allowable limit of one part per million (ppm) for mercury in cosmetics.
The illegal items were bought for P100 to P285 each mostly from discount shops and tiangge stalls selling food supplements, herbal medicines and personal care products at the Araneta Center, Ever Gotesco Commonwealth Center, Fairview Center Mall and Novaliches Plaza Mall.
Equipped with an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, the group analyzed the samples and detected elevated concentrations of mercury in all 10 items in the range of 2,059 ppm to 63,800 ppm.
The group early this week revealed the illegal trade in mercury-containing cosmetics in the cities of Makati and Manila, particularly in Chinese drug stores.
Altogether, the group’s week-long market surveillance in Makati, Manila and Quezon Cities netted 30 units of mercury-loaded skin whitening products representing 22 brands.
“By all accounts, the illicit trade of mercury-laced cosmetics has gone rampant and dangerously out of control despite government efforts. National and local authorities undeniably need to flex their muscles, hold illegal importers, distributors and vendors criminally liable, and uphold the consumer right to product safety,” said Aileen Lucero, Acting National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
Lucero said that “the violation of the people’s right to health under the guise of fairer complexion and flawless beauty, affecting mostly poor to middle-class women consumers, is intolerable” as she appealed to the government to “remove the mercury-tainted skin care products at once.”
Based on the chemical analysis conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition, the following 10 skin whitening creams were found laden with excessive amounts of mercury:
1. Yudantang Green Cucumber and Ginseng 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence, 63,800 ppm
2. Yudantang Sheep Essence and Green Cucumber and Ginseng 10 Specific Eliminating Freckle Spot and Double Whitening Sun Block Cream, 43,300 ppm
3. Yudantang Green Cucumber and Ginseng 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Cream, 35,500 ppm
4. Bihuayn Whitening Cream Day, 12,400 ppm
5. Pretty Model Whitening and Freckle Removing Day and Night Cream, 7,900 ppm
6. S’Zitang 7 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set, 6,730 ppm
7. Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, 5,425 ppm
8. Jiaoli 7 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set, 3,974 ppm
9. Jiaoli 7 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set, 3,959 ppm
10. Miss Beauty Excellent Therapy Whitening Cream, 2,059 ppm
Three of the above products — Yudantang Green Cucumber and Ginseng 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence, Yudantang Sheep Essence and Green Cucumber and Ginseng 10 Specific Eliminating Freckle Spot and Double Whitening Sun Block Cream, and Bihuayn Whitening Cream — are not yet included in the FDA’s list of 77 banned mercury-laden skin whitening products.
According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), “mercury use in cosmetic products can have adverse effects including skin rashes (contact dermatitis and acne venenata), discolouring and scarring (post inflammatory dyschromia), and can reduce skin’s resistance to bacterial and mycotic skin disorders,”
“Direct and prolonged exposure through the skin during repeated applications can cause damage to the brain, nervous system and kidneys,” UNEP warned.