Eight skin-whitening products found to exceed mercury toxicity limits | Inquirer News

Eight skin-whitening products found to exceed mercury toxicity limits

/ 09:52 AM September 17, 2012

Eight whitening products being sold in Cebu City’s stores were found to contain high concentrations of toxic mercury, according to results of test-buys by a Cebu-based ecology group.

The Philippine Earth Justice Center (PEJC) said test buys done on Sept. 13 and 14 in four beauty shops showed that the creams exceeded the allowable mercury limit of one part per million (ppm).


The test buys were done together with representatives of the Quezon City-based Eco-Waste Coalition. These shops specialize in beauty products, Chinese medicines and health supplements.

Aileen Lucero, safe cosmetics campaigner of Eco Waste Coalition, said the shops were located in Manalili, V. Gullas and Colon Sts., Cebu City.


She said the test buys proved that these toxic products already reached the Cebu market.

The eight mercury-laced skin whitening products were listed among the 50 banned products of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and cost P35 to P99.

Through a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer used by Engr. Ramir Castro of QES (Manila), Inc., the eight skin-whitening creams showed high levels of mercury even if none of them listed the substance as an active ingredient.


Pediatric toxicologist Dr. Bessie Antonio of the East Avenue Medical Center said  mercury serves as a “preservative” for what is supposed to be effective skin whitening cream.

While the limit set by the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) for mercury levels in cosmetics is 1ppm, Antonio said mercury is unnecessary in whitening creams.

Antonio said “claims that it can whiten the skin is questionable.”


Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, coordinator of the Philippine Earth Justice Center, said these mercury-laden cosmetics in Cebu should rouse government in confiscating these products and penalizing importers, distributors and vendors.

The Eco Waste Coalition statement said mercury, an extremely toxic chemical that can damage the kidneys, the skin and the nervous system, is often found in imported skin facial creams.

In its article concerning mercury in skin lightening products, the World Health Organization (WHO) said “the main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage.”

The organization said mercury can also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring and lower the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.

“Other effects include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy,” it said.


In a statement Cebu City Councilor Nida Cabrera, chairperson of the environment committee voiced concern over 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 unacceptable,” said Cabrera.

When asked how the public can help identify these mercury-tainted creams, Antonio said this would prove difficult unless testing these products is done.

Eco Waste Coalition urged users to be extra vigilant, read the product information carefully and reject items that lack adequate and understandable labels in keeping with the Consumer Act of the Philippines.

Provincial Director Nelia Navarro of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said the Department of Health (DOH) will take the lead in clearing the markets of these beauty products.

“It is their responsibility to give license or permit to sell and monitor trade of the products such as whitening cream and similar products like food and drugs,” Navarro said.

DOH-7 earlier advised the public to check the cosmetic registration number of the products for safety.

These must also be registered under the Bureau of Food and Drug (BFAD).

The DOH-FDA had already banned 50 products conducted last 2011 and this year.

Antonio asked the DOH-FDA to “remind again the public” about these mercury-laced skin whitening creams. /Tweeny M. Malinao and Joy Cherry Quito, Correspondents

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