Dangerous cosmetics laced with mercury on store shelves – toxics watchdog

A TOXICS watchdog that has been tracking dangerous chemicals in consumer products has alerted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the illegal sale in the cities of Manila and Makati of skin whitening products laden with mercury.

An extremely harmful chemical, mercury can damage the kidneys and the nervous system.  It can interfere with the normal development of the brain in fetuses and young children.

“We have notified the FDA about the illicit sale of mercury-tainted products that lure consumers with the promise of lighter complexion and removal of facial freckles, scars and spots.  These products are dangerous and should not be sold to uninformed consumers,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“Even those not using mercury-laced skin whitening products can be exposed to this poison,” warned Dr. Bessie Antonio of the East Avenue Medical Center.

“ A child, for example, can inhale the mercury vapor with the application of the cream by the user or even directly ingest mercury if she touches a person who has used the cream and then place her hands into her mouth,” explained Antonio, a pediatric toxicologist.

Of the 14 samples, 13 were found to contain excessive levels of mercury from 550 parts per million (ppm) to 60,800 ppm in patent violation of the 1 ppm allowable limit under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive.

None of the samples listed mercury as an ingredient, and all are not yet included in the list of 50 skin whitening  products that the FDA banned in 2010-2011 for containing excessive amounts of mercury.

Sold from P60 to P180, the samples were purchased on June 16, 17 and 18, 2012 from cosmetics stalls and Chinese drug stores located in Binondo, Divisoria, Quiapo and Sta. Cruz, Manila and in Guadalupe, Makati and screened for mercury using an X-Ray Fluorescence(XRF) spectrometer.

In their letter to FDA OIC Atty. Nicolas B. Lutero III dated June 19, 2012, the EcoWaste Coalition proposed the following action points for the agency to consider, to wit:
A.  Issue a new advisory banning skin whitening products for containing mercury above the allowable limit of 1 ppm.
B.  Conduct a series of law enforcement activities to rid the market of skin lightening cosmetics containing dangerous levels of mercury and without the benefit of notification with the FDA.
C.  Publish a consumer education material that will inform users about the health hazards posed by mercury-containing cosmetics.
D.  Encourage victims of mercury exposure from skin whitening products to come forward and tell their stories.

To protect themselves and their families against mercury exposure, the EcoWaste Coalition urged cosmetics consumers to read product labels carefully and refuse those that do not provide adequate and understandable information, including the required list of ingredients.

Signs and symptoms of mercury poisoning, according to the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, include irritability, shyness, tremors, changes in vision or hearing, memory problems, depression and numbness and tingling in hands, feet or around mouth.

The group also cautioned consumers from simply throwing cosmetics that may contain mercury into the regular bins.

“Discarded mercury-containing cosmetics fall under household hazardous waste and should be managed, stored and disposed of in an environmentally-sound way, ”the EcoWaste Coalition said.

13 skin whitening brands tested positive for mercury
1. AILKE Perfection Salvation Rosy Whitening and Peeling Cream manufactured/distributed by (not indicated on the label)(purchased for P120 from Central Chinese Drug Store, 1057 Ongpin St., Binondo, Manila), mercury NOT detected.
2.  Feique Whitening Anti-Freckle Cream manufactured/distributed by GLDJB (Harbin) Cosmetics Ltd.,China (purchased for P60 from stall IA 43-45, 168 Mall, Divisoria, Manila), 16,000 ppm of mercury
3.  Feique Golden Aloe Whitening Anti-Scar, Anti Freckle Set manufactured/distributed by GLDJB (Harbin)Cosmetics Ltd., China (purchased for P60 from stall IA 43-45, 168 Mall, Divisoria, Manila), 25,000 ppm of mercury
4.  Feique Green Tea Vital Whitening Freckle-Removing Cream manufactured/distributed by GLDJB (Harbin) Cosmetics Ltd., China (purchased for P150 from stall IA 43-45, 168 Mall, Divisoria, Manila), 15,800  ppm of mercury
5.  Bai Li Tou Hong manufactured/distributed by (not indicated in English) (purchased for P150 from stall IA 43-45, 168 Mall,Divisoria, Manila),  46,700 ppm of mercury
6.  Maidaifu  Herbal Moisturizing and Whitening Cream manufactured/distributed by (not indicated in English) (purchased forP180 from Stall IA-45, 168 Mall, Divisoria, Manila), 60,800 ppm of mercury
7.  Green Cucumber and Ginseng 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Set manufactured/distributed by Yudantang International, Taiwan (purchased for P120 from stall IR-24, 168Mall, Divisoria), 9,414 ppm of mercury
8.  Loreial Paris Anti-Freckle Cream Suit manufactured/distributed by (not indicated on the label) (purchased for P120 from stall IB 2-4 999 Shopping Mall,Divisoria, Manila), 1,371  ppm of mercury
9.  Aichun Beauty Strongly WhiteningFreckle Series (3 in one) manufactured/distributed by France Sasa (HK) International Group Ltd. / Livepro Beauty Cosmetics Co. Ltd., China (purchased for P98 from  G2 Beauty Products, Villalobos St., Quiapo, Manila), 550 ppm of mercury
10.  “Special Cream”  (double, label in Chinese) manufactured/distributed by (not indicated in English) (purchased for  P80 from stall G-162 Good Earth Mall, Bustos St., Sta. Cruz, Manila), 1,565 ppm of mercury
11.  “Special Cream” (single, label in Chinese)manufactured/distributed by (not indicated in English) (purchased for P80 from Famous Chinese Drug Store, Recto Ave. near Rizal Ave., Sta. Cruz, Manila), 1,378 ppm of mercury
12.  Yudantang Ginseng and Ganoderma Lucidum 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Sun Block Cream manufactured/distributed by Yudantang International, Taiwan (purchased for P140 from Rose and Fujikura General Merchandise, Uni-Mec  Supermarket, Guadalupe, Makati City), 31,300 ppm of mercury
13.  Aichun Beauty Green Tea Whitening Speckle Removing Series (3 in one) manufactured/distributed by France Sasa (HK) International Group Ltd./Livepro Beauty Cosmetic Co. Ltd., China (purchased for P90 from G2 Beauty Products, Carriedo St., Quiapo, Manila), 1,250 ppm of mercury
14.  Aichun Beauty Pawpaw Whitening and Freckle Remover Series (3 in one)  manufactured/distributed by France Sasa (HK) International Group Ltd./Livepro Beauty Cosmetic Co. Ltd., China (purchased for P90 from G2 Beauty Products, Carriedo St., Quiapo, Manila),  867 ppm of mercury

 

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