Banned skin-whitening products openly sold in Davao City markets
DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Environment and consumer protection groups have renewed their warning against banned skin-whitening products, which they said were being openly sold in the market in a recent test buy here.
Both the Davao City-based Interface for Development Interventions (Idis) and the Quezon City-based Ecowaste Coalition have warned these mercury-laced skin whitening products, earlier banned from the market because of their toxic effects on the body, are still being sold in cosmetics and herbal products retailers here.
The groups, which got samples of the banned products, said the products were being sold by herbal products retailers at such areas as the DCLA Shopping Center on Uyanguren; and at a kiosk in Plaza Luisita for P50 to P150 each.
Among the banned products were Bihuayn, Erna, Jiaoli, S’zitang and Yinni skin-whitening creams, which found to contain mercury levels of up to 5,445 parts per million (ppm) during a subsequent screening in Quezon City using an X-ray fluorescence device. The mercury content is way above the allowable limit of 1 ppm.
Aside from S’zitang, the Yinni Green Tea Quick-acting Whitener and Speckle Remover Package was found to have mercury levels of up to 5,085 ppm. The S’Zitang single jar skin-whitening cream had 4,899 ppm.
Ecowaste warned that exposure to mercury – even in low doses – may bring about toxic effects on the nervous, digestive, immune, respiratory and urinary systems; and may even damage the skin. It also affects the development of a child in the womb or early in life.
“The illegal products are still available on the market despite the ocular inspections conducted by the City Health Office and the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) Region XI of some retail outlets last April,” said Ann Fuertes, the Idis executive director.
“The continued sale of banned mercury-laden skin-whitening products is a serious threat to public health and should stop at once,” she said. “Cosmetics retailers should only offer registered products that are safe from mercury and other substances that are damaging to human health.”
The groups warned that direct users of mercury-laced skin whitening cosmetics may experience skin discoloration, rashes and scarring and reduced skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, while repeated applications can cause damage to the brain, the nervous system and the kidneys.
Mercury compounds in skin whitening cosmetics can enter the human body mainly through the skin or the nose, when it is inhaled.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has earlier listed mercury as one of the 10 chemicals of major public health concern, describing it as highly toxic to human health. “Exposure to mercury even at very low doses is detrimental to health and should be avoided,” Fuertes said.
Thony Dizon, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect urged Davao City officials to take immediate action to cut the supply of the dangerous cosmetics.
“We hope that Davao City authorities will severely penalize those involved in the illegal trade of mercury-laced skin lightening creams,” Dizon said.
Both Idis and EcoWaste called on authorities to conduct frequent surprise inspections to rid the market of these contraband goods, as well as pass an ordinance to systematically address issues and concerns on toxic chemicals. SFM
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