The EcoWaste Coalition is warning the public on the use of illegally imported cosmetic products that contains toxic chemicals including mercury, after conducting random tests on samples in Metro Manila.
Unregistered facial whitening and freckle removing creams from China, Pakistan, Malaysia and Taiwan were found out containing mercury after 10 imported products from these countries were tested and discovered to be above the regulatory limit of one part per million (ppm).
The products include Yu Dan Tang Ginseng & Green Cucumber 10-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle Spot & Double Whitening Sun Block Cream from Taiwan that contained mercury 38,900 times beyond the allowable limit of 1 ppm.
“The smuggling of mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics persists despite the combined efforts by the government and the civil society to expose and stop such illegal trade,” said Thony Dizon, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“The persistence of the problem underscores an urgent need for the Duterte administration to ratify the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which, among other things, bans the production, export and import of skin lightening cosmetics with mercury above 1 ppm,” he said.
Nature of mercury on products
According to the World Health Organization, mercury is a common ingredient in skin lightening soaps and make up products like cosmetics.
Most whitening products are commonly used in African and Asian nations since these are being used among dark-skinned populations not only from these areas, but also in Europe and North America.
Mercury salts, based from different laboratory tests, inhibit the formation of melanin, resulting in a lighter skin tone according to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.
Cosmetics in mercury exist in two forms: inorganic and organic. The first one (e.g. ammoniated mercury) can be found in skin lightening soaps and creams, while the latter compounds
(thiomersal [ethyl mercury]and phenyl mercuric salts) are used as cosmetic preservatives in eye makeup cleansing products and also in mascara, according to different scientific studies.
Testing skin-whitening products
The EcoWaste Coalition conducted a random purchasing test on July 22-23 on 13 different skin whitening creams pricing about P60 to P300 each in Divisoria and Quiapo, Manila.
After the X-Ray Fluorescence device assessment, it was found out that 10 products contained excessive concentrations of mercury. These include Yu Dan Tang Ginseng & Green Cucumber 10-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle Spot & Double Whitening Sun Block Cream (with 38,900 ppm); Parley Herbal Beauty Cream (20,500 ppm); Collagen Plus Vit E Day & Night Cream (11,700 ppm); Golden Pearl Beauty Cream (9,434 ppm); Erna Whitening Cream (4,531 ppm); Jiaoli Miraculous Cream (2,766 ppm); S’Zitang 10-Day Whitening & Spot Day Night Set (2,710 ppm); S’Zitang 7-Day Specific Whitening & Spot AB Set (2,640 ppm); Jiaoli 7-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set (2,184 ppm); and Temulawak Day & Night Beauty Whitening Cream (1,128 ppm).
Aichun Beauty Carrot Natural Whitening Anti-Spot Cream; Aichun Beauty Honey Natural Whitening Anti-Spot Cream; and White Glow Whitening Day & Night Cream were found negative for mercury from XRF screening but still illegal since these lack the required Cosmetic Product Notifications from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The FDA has banned over 135 mercury-containing and unnotified skin whitening products from 2010 up to date, and 80 of these were discovered to be harmful to human health.
Aichun Beauty Carrot Natural Whitening Anti-Spot Cream, Aichun Beauty Honey Natural Whitening Anti-Spot Cream, Parley Herbal Beauty Cream, Temulawak Day & Night Cream, and White Glow Day & Night Cream are not yet included in the FDA’s banned product list.
According to WHO, the possible effects on health include kidney damage, skin rashes, scarring and discoloration, reduced skin resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy.