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Mercury found in some skin whiteners

/ 04:53 PM July 19, 2014

Samples of the beauty products that tested positive for high levels of mercury and that were bought in stores in Manila, Parañaque and Pasay. EcoWaste Coalition/CONTRIBUTED FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—An environmental watchdog warned the public against buying whitening products supposedly from the US, China, Japan and Taiwan which are laced with mercury and are being sold in retail shops around Manila and Quezon City.

Nine of the 12 products that the EcoWaste Coalition tested for mercury have been banned by the Food and Drugs Administration while three still have no accreditation from the agency.

According to the EcoWaste Coalition, mercury in the cosmetics stops the production of melanin (a natural pigmentation that gives the skin its color), artificially resulting in fairer complexion.

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EcoWaste coordinatior Aileen Lucero said, “Consumers should be cautious of deceptive claims as some cosmetics that promise flawless and lighter skin tone contain undisclosed amounts of toxic mercury, which can damage the kidneys and the skin itself.”

The whitening products  found to have high levels of mercury by as much as 51,000 parts per million   were bought July 13-15 by the group mostly from Chinese drugstores which sold them at prices ranging from P80 to P200.

Using a handheld x-ray fluorescence spectrometer, EcoWaste detected 51,000 ppm of mercury from: the BG Sea Pearl and Papaya Natural Essence 6 days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Sun Block Cream; BG Ginseng and Ganoderma Lucidum 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Sun Block Cream, 46,800 ppm of the toxic metal; Yudantang Ginseng and Green Cucumber 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence with 43,500 ppm; Feique Herbal Extract Whitening Anti-Freckle Set with 28,800 ppm; Erna Whitening Cream with 8,284 ppm; Yinni Green Tea Quickacting Whitener and Speckle Remover Package with 6,554 ppm; and Jiaoli Miraculous Cream with 4,740 ppm.

Also in EcoWaste’s “dirty dozen” list are: S’zitang with 4,565 ppm; Bai Li Tou Hong with 2,859 ppm; Jiaoli 7 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set with 2,184 ppm; Sanli Eliminating Freckle Cream with 1,305 ppm; and Gakadi with 123 ppm.

The group pointed out that with the exception of the two BG products and the Feique cream, nine have already been banned by the FDA.

Lucero said that the “BG” line of whitening cosmetics, supposedly manufactured in New York, claims to contain “ten kinds of precious herbal medicines” and alleges that its “gentle formula keeps your skin soft like a child.” Each, she said, was sold at P120 at the Pan Pacific Chinese Drug Store at the 999 Shopping Mall in Manila and still do not have market authorization from the FDA.

Under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Cosmetics Directive, the permissible limit for mercury in cosmetics is just 1 ppm.

“Inorganic mercury, an unlisted ingredient, in these products can enter the body through the skin. Repeated use will cause mercury levels in the body to soar as can be seen in the increased mercury levels in the urine,” Lucero said, adding that mercury can damage the kidneys and affect renal functions.

Apart from their long-term effects, the World Health Organization has warned that mercury-laden skin lightening products can also cause skin rashes, discoloration, and scarring as well as reduction in its resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.

“Innocent children can ingest the toxic metal by hugging or kissing adults who use these creams,” Lucero pointed out.

TAGS: Consumer issues, EcoWaste Coalition, mercury, toxic, whitening products
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