The EcoWaste Coalition, a group campaigning for chemical safety, made this conclusion after deploying its “AlerToxic Patrol” to check if the FDA’s three successive orders banning a total of 23 skin lightening products were being complied with.
“Our investigation proves that the blacklisted skin whitening creams have not disappeared from store shelves and are being sold to unsuspecting consumers from 60 to 180 pesos,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT (People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats).
“Unknown to consumers, these ‘magic’ skin whitening products contain excessive amounts of mercury, a toxic chemical, that can endanger their health,” she added.
Mercury, a chemical of global concern, is particularly dangerous for the nervous system, including the developing brain of the foetus. Children of mothers who use mercury-containing skin lighteners such as soaps and creams have a high risk of being mentally and physically impaired.
The group conducted random market surveillance one month after the FDA issued its last order banning the sale of 11 mercury-laced skin lightening creams that the agency described as “imminently injurious, unsafe or dangerous” as per FDA Circular 2010-011 issued on June 16, 2010.
Disguised as buyers, the “AlerToxic Patrol” went store hopping on July 13, 14 and 15 and casually bought some of the prohibited items in certain tiangge stalls, food supplement kiosks, beauty shops and in Chinese drug stores located in Quiapo, Sta. Cruz and Divisoria (168 Mall) in Manila, Makati City (Guadalupe Shopping Complex), Quezon City (Farmers’ Plaza) and in Angono, Rizal.
Out of the 11 skin whiteners banned by the FDA on June 16, the anti-toxic volunteers were able to purchase six brands with receipts.
These banned products include 1) Beauty Girl Double White Collagen Elastin Whitening Night Cream, 2) Doctor Bai Skin Revitalizing Skin Brightening Cream, 3) Glutathione Grapeseed Extract Whitening and Anti-Aging Cream, 4) JJJ Magic Spots Removing Cream, 5) Shengli Day and Night Cream, and 6) S’Zitang Cream.
They were also able to purchase Jiaoli Miraculous Cream that the agency banned as early as February 9, 2010.
The continued sale of the banned cosmetics prompted the EcoWaste Coalition to call anew for intensified law enforcement action to protect the consumer right to safety and health.
“We urge the FDA to actively mobilize all the law enforcement agencies to stop the trade in mercury-tainted skin-whitening products and protect gullible consumers from being deceived by unscrupulous vendors,” Lucero stressed.
“The proliferation of products with toxic ingredients such as mercury should encourage the FDA into reviewing its recall policy and implementation strategy,” she added.
To protect the public health and safety, the EcoWaste Coalition has identified several action points for implementation by the FDA:
1. Revise the current allowable limit of mercury from 1 part per million (ppm) to zero to ensure that only mercury-free cosmetics are sold in the market.
2. Require products to be pre-tested for mercury and other toxic substances before being sold to prove that they are safe for the consumers and the environment.
3. Enforce the required labeling requirements under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, Consumer Protection Act, Food and Drug Administration Act and other pertinent laws.
4. Conduct effective public information using all available media that will inform and caution vendors and consumers in both urban and rural areas about the hazards of mercury in cosmetics.
5. Establish a hotline where consumers can obtain recall and general product safety information as well as report violation of recall orders.
6. Publish detailed reports to inform the public on how recall orders were implemented.
Link to FDA Circular 2010-011: