The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, made the discovery after conducting its latest round of test buys to find out if the FDA Advisory 2011-012, issued on August 4, 2011, recalling 50 brands of skin lightening products for containing mercury above the “allowable limit” of 1 part per million (ppm) was being enforced or not.
The 50 listed products “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,” the FDA advisory warned.
“Our investigation shows that we could still obtain some of the forbidden mercury-laden products in the market one year after the FDA came out with the list,” stated Aileen Lucero, Safe Cosmetics Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“It’s toxic cosmetics galore, particularly in Baclaran, where the recalled products are traded in the open, along with other personal care products of dubious safety and quality,” she said.
“We call on our food and drug regulators, together with the city governments of Parañaque and Pasay, to flex some muscles, confiscate the contraband goods, and file charges against erring stores and their proprietors,” she added.
Last Saturday, August 4, 2012, the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol went to Baclaran and managed to buy six FDA-banned products such as 1) Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, 2) Jiaoli 7-Days Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set, 3) Miss Beauty Magic Cream, 4) Miss Beauty Excellent Therapy Whitening Cream (gold, blue and purple color), 5) Miss Beauty Excellent Therapy Whitening Cream (gold, brown and old rose color), and 6) S’Zitang.
The group also purchased four other skin whitening products with incomplete or misleading labels in violation of R.A. 9711 as well as R.A. 7394, or the Consumer Act of the Philippines such as: 1) Panive 7-Day Whitening Speckle Removing Series (no information on manufacturer or distributor), 2) Qian Mei (product label and insert in Chinese, Russian and Thai), 3) Spring Return Ginseng and Pearl Natural Pure Plants Whitening Cream (supposedly from “New York, USA”), and 4) TVC Spot Removal Cream (allegedly from “Mexico,” but “made in P.R.C.”).
“These deceivingly unhealthy products bragged their herbal or natural extracts such as garlic, ginko biloba and ginseng, but none listed mercury as an ingredient,” Lucero noted.
Mercury analysis conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition on August 6, 2012 using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device showed excessive mercury levels in all the 10 products, with Miss Beauty Magic Cream registering the highest level of mercury at 12,700 ppm.
According to the “Epidemiological Alert: Mercury in Skin Lightening Products” issued by the World Health Organization in June 2012, “the main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage.”
“Mercury in skin lightening products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections. Other effects include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy,” the WHO said.
Citing information from the WHO, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out that the disposal of mercury-containing cosmetics is both a health and environmental issue since mercury is eventually released into the wastewater.
“The mercury then enters the environment, where it becomes methylated and enters the food-chain as the highly toxic methylmercury in fish. Pregnant women who consume fish containing methylmercury transfer the mercury to their fetuses, which can later result in neurodevelopmental deficits in the children,” the WHO said.
Skin whitening products and their mercury levels based on the XRF screening conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition on August 6, 2012 (enclosed in parentheses is the place of purchase and the cost of the item):
1) Miss Beauty Magic Cream, 12,700 ppm (Store SF 80-81, Baclaran Terminal Plaza; P150)
2) TVC Spot Removal Cream, 9,971 ppm (Good Year Chinese Drug Store; P150)
3) Jiaoli 7-Days Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set, 7,243ppm (Store K-9, Baclaran Terminal Plaza; P100)
4) Spring Return Ginseng and Pearl Natural Pure Plants Whitening Cream, 6,667 ppm (Baclaran Chinese Drug Store; P100)
5) Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, 4,630 ppm (Store D02-04, Baclaran Terminal Plaza; P70)
6) S’Zitang, 4,125 ppm (Store SF-48, Baclaran Terminal Plaza; P80)
7) Miss Beauty Excellent Therapy Whitening Cream (gold, blue and purple color), 1,437 ppm (Store C-47, Baclaran Terminal Plaza; P220)
8) Panive 7-Day Whitening Speckle Removing Series, 695 ppm (Store SF, Baclaran Terminal Plaza; P120)
9) Qian Mei, 430 ppm (Store SF, Baclaran Terminal Plaza; P120)
10) Miss Beauty Excellent Therapy Whitening Cream (gold, brown and old rose color), 199 ppm (Store C-47, Baclaran Terminal Plaza; P220)