Mercury-tainted cosmetics sold in Metro Manila despite ban
MANILA, Philippines–A toxics watch group has warned the public against buying mercury-tainted whitening products allegedly imported from the United States, China, Japan and Taiwan and sold in Manila and Quezon City.
According to EcoWaste Coalition, nine of the 12 products that it tested for the hazardous chemical have been banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) while the rest have yet to be authorized for sale by the government agency.
The group said that mercury in cosmetic products stops the production of melanin (a natural pigmentation that gives the skin its color), artificially resulting in a fairer complexion.
“Consumers should be cautious of deceptive claims as some cosmetics that promise flawless and lighter skin tone contain undisclosed amounts of mercury which can damage the kidneys and the skin itself,” EcoWaste coordinator Aileen Lucero said.
The whitening products which were found to contain mercury by as much as 51,000 parts per million (ppm) were bought by the group from July 13 to 15, mostly from Chinese drugstores which sold them at prices ranging from P80 to P200.
Using a handheld X-ray fluorescence spectrometer, Eco-Waste detected 51,000 ppm of mercury in 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 were 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.
Under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Cosmetics Directive, the permissible limit for mercury in cosmetic products is just 1 ppm.
The group pointed out that with the exception of the two BG products and the Feique cream, nine had already been banned by the FDA.
Lucero said that the BG line of whitening cosmetics, supposedly manufactured in New York, claims to contain “10 kinds of precious herbal medicines” with a “gentle formula [that] keeps your skin soft like a child.” Each one, she added, was being sold at P120 in the Pan Pacific Chinese Drug Store at the 999 Shopping Mall in Manila and has yet to be authorized for sale in the market by the FDA.
“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 this can damage the kidneys and affect renal functions.
The World Health Organization has warned that mercury-laden skin lightening products can also cause skin rashes, discoloration and scarring as well as reduce the user’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.
“Innocent children can ingest the toxic metal by hugging or kissing adults who use these creams,” Lucero said.
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