The group bared the “ugly truth” after finding mercury up to 52,100 ppm in 19 of 25 samples even with the heightened drive by the government to purge the market of such injurious products.
The group’s latest toxic exposé was made ahead of the third Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee meeting for a global mercury control treaty in Nairobi, Kenya on October 31 to November 4 to call attention to the intentional use of mercury in products as a public health and environmental issue.
“We have uncovered an ugly truth behind some cosmetics with outrageous amounts of mercury that are directly applied to the skin. These products are terribly harmful to health, totally not pretty and blatantly illegal,” stated Aileen Lucero, Safe Cosmetics Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“We appeal to the conscience of concerned retailers to stop selling such toxic merchandise as we advise consumers to be on red alert for products that can ruin their skin and health,” she added.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on August 4, 2011 issued a list banning 50 skin whitening products for having mercury above the permissible limit of 1 ppm and posing imminent danger or injury to consumers.
The unprecedented move by the FDA was triggered by tests conducted in July this year by the EcoWaste Coalition and the US-based IPEN showing that 11 of the 12 skin whitening products they tested had mercury levels up to 28,600 ppm.
To check if vendors were complying with the government recall order, the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol went shopping on October 20-23 and bought 25 samples from various retail outlets.
The items were obtained from shops selling health supplements and beauty products in Guadalupe Nuevo and Santa Cruz in Makati City, Uniwide Sales Metromall in Las Piñas City, Baclaran Terminal Plaza Mall in Pasay City, and Cubao, Quezon City, and in several Chinese drug stores in Binondo, Divisoria and Santa Cruz in the city of Manila.
The samples were then screened for mercury on October 24 by Engr. Ramir Castro of QES (Manila), Inc. using a portable equipment called X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, a screening device regularly used by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and Environmental Protection Agency of US.
Out of the 25 samples, 12 were among those already banned by the FDA.
The tests showed that 19 of the 25 samples (76%) had mercury levels ranging from 1,395 ppm to 52,100 ppm. None of these samples listed mercury as an ingredient.
The products that tested positive with mercury were:
1. Long Dian Tu Glutathione Pearl Natural Whitening Essence Cream, 52,100 ppm.
2. Beauty Girl 10-Day Double Whitening Speckles Removed Essence Cream, 42,400 ppm
3. Jonathan 12-day Clearing Facial Spots Cream, 28,200 ppm
4. Feique Rose Refining Nourishing Set Cream, 21,600 ppm
5. Lianglibai Qingbanxuejizuhetaozhuang Cream, 15,000 ppm
6. Pretty Model Whitening and Freckle Removing Cream, 11,000 ppm
7. Yudantang Aloe Pearl 10-Day Whitening Speckles Removed Essence Cream, 10,700 ppm
8. Women of Flower Whitening and Speckle Removing AB Series Cream, 9,643 ppm
9. Lamb Placenta Whitening and Anti-Aging Cream, 8,816 ppm
10. Jiaoli 7-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set Cream, 7,053 ppm
11. Sara Glutathione Sheep Placenta Whitening and Anti-Aging Cream, 6,548 ppm
12. Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, 5,297 ppm
13. Forever Beauty 10-Day Special Cream, 5,199 ppm
14. JJJ Magic Spots Removing Cream, 5,034 ppm
15. New Baijiasi Whitening Night Cream, 4,912 ppm
16. Beauty Girl Double White SPF17AP Whitening Cream, 4,452 ppm
17. (Skin whitening cream with Chinese characters on the label), 2,235 ppm
18. Miss Beauty Excellent Therapy Whitening Cream (violet packaging), 1,453 ppm
19. Miss Beauty Excellent Therapy Whitening Cream (old rose packaging) 1,395 ppm
The mercury-laced skin whitening products were mostly imported from mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, while a few came from Germany, Japan and Saudi Arabia as indicated or insinuated on the labels.
According to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, mercury is readily absorbed by the skin, damages brain function and is particularly hazardous during fetal development. Mercury is linked to nervous, immune, reproductive and respiratory toxicity.
Aside from mercury, the latest tests conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition showed that some of the samples also had high levels of arsenic, cadmium and lead.