‘Toxic’ cosmetics resurface in Metro Manila markets

A GROUP monitoring dealers’ compliance to government orders banning mercury-tainted cosmetics said that “Jiao Li” and other proscribed skin whitening products have re-emerged in Metro retail outlets.

After a market surveillance conducted by its “AlerToxic Patrol” from December 1 to 7, the EcoWaste Coalition disclosed that 10 of the 28 skin whitening creams banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this year have reappeared in some health and beauty shops and Chinese drugstores in the metropolis.

The controversial items were tested by the FDA and subsequently banned under four separate Circulars for exceeding the agency’s “allowable limit” for mercury of 1 part per million (ppm), posing “imminent danger or injury to the consuming public.”

“We are very upset to find these health-damaging skin lightening creams on store shelves despite the repeated FDA threat of filing criminal charges against violators,” said Aileen Lucero of the coalitions Project PROTECT or People Responding and Organizing against Toxic Chemical Threats.

“Our latest test buys only underscore the need for firm and strict law enforcement in order to protect Filipino consumers from mercury exposure in personal care products,” she added.

The test buys were carried out in stores located in Binondo, Divisoria and Quiapo in Manila, Guadalupe Shopping Center and Makati Cinema Square in Makati City, Starmall Alabang in Muntinlupa City, and Baclaran Terminal Plaza Mall in Pasay City.

Among the items that the groups procured with receipts provided were:

  • Beauty Girl Ginseng and Green Cucumber
  • Beauty Girl Olive and Sheep Essence
  • Dr. Bai
  • Jiao Li 7-Days Eliminating Freckle AB Set
  • Jiao Li 10-Days Eliminating Freckle Day and Night Set
  • Jiaoli Huichusu
  • Jiaoli Huichusu Whitening Speckles Removal Cream
  • Jiaoli Miraculous Cream
  • JJJ Magic Spot Removing Cream and
  • S’Zitang

The “Jiao Li” skin lightening creams were among the first two batches of skin lightening products banned and ordered seized by the FDA under Circular 2010-002 and 2010-004 issued on January 8 and February 18, 2010, respectively.

A research by the coalition further showed that the Government of Hong Kong banned related ”Jiao Li” products way back in 2007 after the cosmetics were tested positive for mercury in the range of 3,800 to 13,000 ppm.

The tolerable limit of mercury content in cosmetics in China is also 1 ppm.

Citing information from the newly-released book “An NGO Introduction to Mercury Pollution” published by the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), the coalition warned that cosmetics marketed with the promise of whitening the skin or removing dark spots often contain cancer-causing mercury chloride and/or ammoniated mercury.

According to IPEN, mercury-containing cosmetics will initially make the skin lighter by inhibiting the production of melanin, but will later make the skin blotchy causing the user to apply more in an effort to even out the color.

Both the coalition and IPEN are participating in an ongoing international process involving governments, industries, public interest groups, indigenous communities and other stakeholders to develop a global treaty to control mercury.

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