Toxics watchdog hits chinese drug stores selling mercury-laden cosmetics
A watchdog keeping an eye on consumer products containing harmful chemicals decried the unabashed sale of mercury-laden cosmetics by 12 Chinese drug stores in Binondo and Divisoria, Manila.
Using some of its strongest language to date, the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Chemical Safety denounced the blatant trade of cosmetics loaded with excessive quantities of mercury that pose real danger to human health and the environment.
“We condemn this callous and criminal trade of skin care products loaded with toxic mercury by some Chinese drug stores masquerading as agents of good health. It’s high time for the government to use the full force of the law to stop this assault against consumer health and welfare,” Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
The harsh condemnation came in the wake of the group’s latest investigation showing that mercury-added cosmetics, despite explicit prohibition by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), are still being sold by non-compliant stores.
In test buys conducted on February 2 and 3, 2013, the group’s AlerToxic Patrol found 12 Chinese drug stores selling 15 brands of imported skin whitening products from P50 to P300 each, including five products (Bai Li Tou Hong, Gemli Gluthathione Grapeseed Extract Whitening and Anti-Aging, Miss Beauty Magic Cream, and two “special cream” products labeled in Chinese characters) that were among the 71 products banned by the FDA for containing mercury above the allowable limit of 1 part per million (ppm).
Subsequent testing showed elevated levels of mercury up to 25,500 ppm in 14 of the 15 products.
Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, the EcoWaste Coalition detected mercury in the following items:
1. Natural Orange Whitening and Anti-Aging Package, P80, with 25,500 ppm of mercury (Pan-Pacific Drug Store)
2. Feique Herbal Extract Whitening Anti-Freckle Set, P200, with 20,300 ppm of mercury (To Ren Tang Chinese Medication)
3. Hengxueqian Whitening Set, P300, with 18,100 ppm of mercury (To Ren Tang Chinese Medication)
4. Miss Beauty Magic Cream, P70, with 11,400 ppm of mercury (East West Drug Store)
5. Gemli Gluthathione Grapeseed Extract Whitening and Anti-Aging, P200, with 3,791 ppm of mercury (LVD Chinese Drug Store)
6. Baiyansu Three-in-One Whitening Set, P150, with 5,940 ppm of mercury (Sim Sim Chinese Drug Store)
7. Bai Li Tou Hong, P70, with 4,754 ppm of mercury (Green Health Drug Store)
8. White Advance Hydroxytyrosol L-Glutathione Whitening and Anti-Aging Cream, P180, with 4,317 ppm of mercury (Good Health Chinese Drug Store)
9. Gakadi, P160, with 3,430 ppm of mercury (To Ren Tang Chinese Medication)
10. One product labeled in Chinese characters, P70, with 2,230 ppm of mercury (Ya Ren Chinese Drug Store)
11. One product labeled in Chinese characters, P80, with 1,733 ppm of mercury (Cheng En Chinese Drug Store)
12. Care Skin Strong Whitening and Spot Removing Package, P150, with 1,700 ppm of mercury (Lexington Drug Store)
13. One product labeled in Chinese characters with image of red flower and green leaves, P150, with 1,688 ppm of mercury (Kowloon Chinese Drug Store)
14. Fruit and Lovely Quickacting Whitener and Speckle Remover Package, P50, with 472 ppm of mercury (South Ocean Chinese Drug Store)
One product labeled in Chinese characters sold for P240 at To Ren Tang Chinese Medication had no detectable level of mercury, but interestingly had a note on the packaging saying it is banned for children and pregnant women.
The group has already alerted the FDA about its findings through the Center for Cosmetics Regulation and Research headed by Rhoda Laine Manoloto.
Citing information from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the EcoWaste Coalition warned that “even small amounts of mercury and its compounds can impact human health and the environment.”
According to UNEP, “mercury use in cosmetic products can have adverse effects including skin rashes (contact dermatitis and acne venenata), discolouring and scarring (post inflammatory dyschromia), and can reduce skin’s resistance to bacterial and mycotic skin disorders.”
“Direct and prolonged exposure through the skin during repeated applications can cause damage to the brain, nervous system and kidneys,” UNEP warned.
“Skin care products known to contain mercury should be banned from manufacturing or import and removed from the market when found,” UNEP said.