Groups Sound Alarm Over Illegal Sale of Mercury-Laden Cosmetics in Cebu

Environmental and health advocates today revealed an ugly news about mercury-laced beauty products being sold in Cebu City that are supposed to lighten the skin complexion.

Cebu-based Philippine Earth Justice Center together with Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition announced the discovery of the tainted skin whitening creams, which included brands that government had earlier recalled for containing mercury above the allowable limit of one part per million (ppm).

Mercury, an extremely toxic chemical that can damage the kidneys, the skin and the nervous system, is often found in imported skin facial creams that lure users with the promise of whiter skin tone and the “magic” removal of freckles, scars, spots and even aging wrinkles.

“Our test buys provide solid evidence that mercury-tainted cosmetics have reached and infected the Cebu market,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

The test buys were conducted on September 13 and 14 involving 4 shops that specialize in beauty products, health supplements and Chinese medicines located in Manalili, V. Gullas and Colon Sts., Cebu City, she said.

Lucero reported being able to buy eight mercury-laced skin whitening products, sold from P35 to P99, including items that were among the 50 brands banned under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Advisory 2011-012.

Subsequent analysis of the purchased items using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence(XRF) spectrometer by Engr. Ramir Castro of QES (Manila),Inc. indicated high concentrations of mercury in the eight products,namely:

1. Miss Beauty Magic Cream, with 11,400 ppm of mercury

2. S’Zitang Cream, with 7,856 ppm ofmercury

3. Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, with 7,254 ppm of mercury

4. The Flower Woman 7 Days Whitening and Spot and Night Cream, with 7,303 ppm of mercury

5. Xin Jiaoli 7-Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Cream, with 6,795 ppm of mercury

6. Jiaoli, with 5,061 ppm of mercury

7. S’Zitang 7-Days Specific Eliminating Cream , with 4521 ppm ofmercury

8. Woman of Flower, with 4,228 ppm of mercury

None of the above mentioned products listed mercury as an active ingredient.

“The discovery of banned mercury-laden cosmetics in Cebu is bad news for consumer health and should rouse the government to act with firm resolve:confiscate the contraband goods, charge erring importers, distributors and vendors and ensure dealers’ compliance with the law,” said Atty.Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, Coordinator of the Philippine Earth Justice Center

“Selling health-damaging cosmetics with mercury is totally not pretty,” added Ramos who is also a member of the EcoWasteCoalition’s Steering Committee.

Cebu City Councilor Nida Cabrera, chair of the committee on environment, has expressed serious concern about the illegal trade in mercury-tainted cosmetics.

“I find this very alarming as consumers are practically buying poisonous cosmetics that can bring about adverse health effects. This is not acceptable,” said Cabrera.

To safeguard consumers against mercury exposure, the EcoWasteCoalition urged users to be extra vigilant, read the product information carefully and do not buy items that lack adequate and understandable labels.

“The right to product information and the right to product safety are guaranteed by the Consumer Act of the Philippines. Consumer vigilance is needed to ensure that these rights are respected by business and industry,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.