Consumers Cautioned vs Use of Mercury-Tainted Skin Whitening Cream (Case of Pinay Domestic Helper in Hong Kong: A Wakeup Call)

(Photo from Hong Kong’s Department of Health)

The EcoWaste
Coalition, a toxics watchdog, cautioned consumers against a health-damaging
skin whitening cream called “Santen” after a Filipina household worker in Hong
Kong was hospitalized due to mercury poisoning.

Citing information from the Hong Kong’s Department of Health and the Philippine
Consulate General in Hong Kong, the EcoWaste Coalition reported that the unidentified
28-year old Filipina was admitted for facial swelling at the Queen Mary
Hospital last March 17 and discharged on March 21.

“This case of mercury poisoning attributed to the use of a skin whitening cream
should serve as a wakeup call to consumers of such cosmetics.  Although it happened to a Filipina in Hong
Kong, we have reasons to believe that there are many similar cases locally, which
are probably underdiagnosed and not publicly reported,” said Aileen Lucero,
National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.  

“Mercury is absorbed by the body through the skin from such product.  Repeated use will consequently increase the
amount of mercury in the body as can be seen in the raised levels of mercury in
the blood and urine,” she explained.

“As the problem with illegally imported mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics refuses
to go away, we advise consumers to reject outright those products with
inadequate labeling information, including full ingredient list, instructions
for use, special precautions if any and contact details of the manufacturer,
importer and/or distributor,” she stated.

According to a news release by the Hong Kong Department of Health, the Filipino
national submitted a facial cream that she was using for about a month prior to
her admission at the said hospital.

Subsequent laboratory analysis conducted by the hospital showed that the “Santen”
cream had mercury that was 15,211 times the acceptable level, which is one part
per million (ppm) under the Hygienic Standards for Cosmetics of the People’s
Republic of China.

exposure to mercury can cause damage to the nervous system and kidneys.
Symptoms may include tremors, irritability, insomnia, deterioration of memory,
difficulty in concentration, impaired hearing and vision, and change in the
ability to taste. In the most severe cases, renal failure may occur,” the Hong
Kong Department of Health explained.

“As the level of mercury in the product is 15,211 times the acceptable
level, use of the product may cause serious side effects. People who have used
the above product should stop using it immediately and consult health-care
professionals as soon as possible if they feel unwell or are in doubt. Members
of the public are urged not to buy or use cosmetic products of unknown
composition or from doubtful sources,” it added.

From 2010 to date, the
Food and Drugs Administration of the Philippines has prohibited 104 skin
whitening products for containing excessive levels of mercury above the allowable
limit of 1 ppm under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive.

Regular market surveillance by members of the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic
Patrol had indicated continued sale of the prohibited mercury-laced skin
whitening products, particularly in beauty product shops and Chinese drug
stores in Metro Manila and other commercial hubs in Cebu and Davao Cities.

The group has announced its plan to conduct a fresh market watch to check if
Santen is sold locally to duly forewarn cosmetics regulators and consumers.



http://www.philcongen-hk.com/ (look for 15 April 2014 ”Babala
sa Paggamit ng Santen Cream” notice)

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