20 Facial Cream Products Contaminated with Mercury

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, had detected mercury, a powerful neurotoxin, in 20 imported skin whitening facial creams.

Based on the screening conducted by the group using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, all of the 20 samples tested had mercury above the 1 part per million (ppm) limit set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“Of the 20 mercury-loaded creams, 10 were among the 50 brands recalled by the FDA for exceeding the 1 ppm limit in total contempt of the law,” said Aileen Lucero, Safe Cosmetics Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

The FDA has yet to ban the other 10 brands that could put users’ health at risk, the group noted.

“We call upon the FDA to immediately recall the toxic products and punish recalcitrant importers, distributors and retailers to dissuade others from defying the law,” she said.

From January 28 to February 1, the EcoWaste Coalition bought samples from Chinese drug stores and health and beauty shops in the cities of Makati, Manila and Quezon. The samples were analyzed for mercury last Wednesday with the assistance of QES (Manila), Inc.

Mercury in skin lightening products can damage the kidney and also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Aside from mercury, traces of other toxic metals such as arsenic, cadmium and chromium were found in some of the samples.

“Beauty Girl 10 Double Whitening Speckles Removed Essence Cream (Natural Olive and Sheep)”, banned since 2010, had the highest mercury content at 72,100 ppm.

The top 10 samples with the most mercury were 1) Beauty Girl 10 Double Whitening Speckles Removed Essence Cream (Natural Olive and Sheep), 72,100 ppm, 2) Bai Li Tou Hong, 65,700 ppm, 3) Ailke Perfection Salvation Rosy Whitening A + B, 55,300 ppm, 4) Long Dian Tu Glutathione Pearl Natural Whitening Essence Cream, 50,800 ppm, and 5) Beauty Girl 10-Day Whitening Speckles Removed Essence Cream (Ginseng and Green Cucumber), 48,300 ppm.

Completing the list were 6) Feique Rose Refining Nourishing Set Cream, 30,200 ppm, 7) Jonathan 12-day Clearing Facial Spots Cream, 24,500 ppm, 8) Feique Whitening Anti-Freckle Cream (Russian characters), 22,200 ppm, 9) Feique Golden Aloe Whitening Anti-Scar Anti-Freckle Set, 19,600 ppm and 10) Lamb Placenta Whitening and Anti-Aging Cream, 12,200 ppm.

For selling the mercury-laced cosmetics, the EcoWaste Coalition gave “Lason Awards” to the unscrupulous dealers led by Rose and Fujikura General Merchandise in Barangay Guadalupe and Barangay Sta. Cruz in Makati City where nine of the 20 samples were purchased.

The group also chided R.L. Tarinque General Merchandise at 1A-45 of 168 Mall, Clarita Valeriano Merchandise, Cheng En Chinese Drug Store, Kaften Beauty Shop and Kimsheng Chinese Drug Store situated in Binondo, Quiapo and Sta. Cruz, Manila and Kaka Chinese Drug Store in Cubao, Quezon City for selling poison creams.

According to WHO, mercury in soaps, creams and other cosmetic products is eventually discharged into 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.