EcoWaste Coalition Finds Mercury-Tainted Cosmetics in Las Piñas and Muntinlupa

A toxics watchdog has uncovered the unlawful sale of imported mercury-laden skin whitening products in Las Piñas and Muntinlupa Cities not far from the headquarters of the government agency that has banned some of them.

The EcoWaste Coalition, which has been relentlessly tracking the illicit trade of mercury-tainted cosmetics, made the shocking discovery after being able to buy two skin whitening products already recalled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 2010, and three other products containing excessive levels of mercury.

“Unlike other contraband goods which are usually sold under-the-counter, mercury-laden cosmetics are openly offered for sale, making a mockery of FDA’s recall orders aimed at safeguarding consumer health and safety,” stated Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“The FDA, with support from the city and mall management, should waste no time in deploying field inspectors to confiscate the recalled products and apprehend the violators,” she emphasized.

“We request the agency to issue a new advisory recalling mercury-containing skin whitening products and warning consumers about the health ramifications of exposure to mercury,” she added.

The FDA last month affirmed the presence of elevated amounts of mercury in 14 skin whitening products submitted by the Ecowaste Coalition for confirmatory analysis.

For test buys conducted on August 26 and 28, the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol was able to procure Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, S’Zitang 10-Day Eliminating Freckle Day and Night Set, Feique Rose Refining Nourishing Set Cream, Forever Beauty 10-Day Special Cream and Long Dian Tu Glutathione Pearl Natural Whitening Essence Cream.

Jiaoli and S’Zitang were among those banned by the FDA in 2010 for containing mercury above the allowable limit of one part per million (ppm).

The products, costing from P100 – P250, were obtained from small stores selling beauty products and health supplements in shopping malls such as the Starmall Alabang in Muntinlupa City and in RFC Mall, Starmall Las Piñas and Uniwide Metromall in Las Piñas City. Starmall Alabang is a stone’s throw away from the FDA headquarters, while the other malls are just a short ride away.

Subsequent chemical analysis of the five products by the EcoWaste Coalition on August 29 using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer indicated high concentrations of mercury up to 23,100 ppm.

Feique Rose Refining Nourishing Set Cream tested highest in mercury with 23,100 ppm, followed by Forever Beauty 10-Day Special Cream with 18,900 ppm, S’Zitang 10-Day Eliminating Freckle Day and Night Set with 8,754 ppm, Jiaoli Miraculous Cream with 4,779 ppm and Long Dian Tu Glutathione Pearl Natural Whitening Essence Cream with 3,660 ppm.

Citing information from the “Mercury in Products and Wastes” booklet published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the EcoWaste Coalition warned that exposure to mercury in cosmetic products can cause adverse health effects.

Some of the effects of mercury exposure to the skin include blotchiness, discoloring, rashes and scarring. Exposure can also reduce skin’s resistance to bacterial and mycotic skin infections.

Direct and prolonged exposure through the skin during repeated applications can cause damage to the brain, nervous system and kidneys, warned UNEP.z