An environmental group condemned Sunday the continued sale of imported mercury-laden skin whitening and antiaging products in several Chinese drug stores despite the ban imposed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on these items.
In test buys conducted during the weekend, Ecowaste Coalition discovered that 12 drugstores in the Binondo and Divisoria areas in Manila still sell 15 brands of imported skin whitening products—at prices ranging from P50 to P300—that are among the 71 banned by the FDA. The agency had prohibited the sale of the items because these contain mercury above the allowable limit of one part per million (ppm).
Through an x-ray fluorescence analyzer, the watchgroup’s Task Force on Chemical Safety found elevated levels of mercury of up to 25,500 ppm in 14 of the 15 products which, it said, could pose real danger to human health and the environment.
Aileen Lucero of Ecowaste Coalition said in a statement: “We condemn this callous and criminal trade of skin care products loaded with toxic mercury by Chinese drug stores masquerading as agents of good health. It is high time for the government to use the full force of the law to stop this assault against consumer health and welfare.”
Of the 15 tested products, only one did not contain mercury although there was a note on its packaging which cautioned children and pregnant women against using it.
Lucero said that their group had alerted the FDA, through the Center for Cosmetics Regulation and Research, of its findings.
Ecowaste cited information from the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep) which warned that even the smallest amount of mercury and its compounds could adversely affect health and the environment.
According to the Unep, mercury use in cosmetic products can cause skin rashes, including contact dermatitis and acne venenata; as well as skin discoloration and scarring; and can reduce the skin’s resistance to bacterial and mycotic skin disorders.
“Direct and prolonged exposure through the skin during repeated applications can cause damage to the brain, nervous system and kidneys,” Unep warned.