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Korean Consumer Agency finds high mercury levels in cosmetics

By Andrew MCDOUGALL , 22-Jan-2013

Korean Consumer Agency finds high mercury levels in cosmetics

At a time when mercury emission in consumer products has gone under the spotlight, a Korean consumer watchdog has highlighted the high levels of the toxic chemical found in some whitening cosmetics imported from China.

A report published at the start of the year by the United Nations Environment Programme, stated that Asia is the largest regional emitter of mercury in the world, and cosmetics are noted amongst other products as contributing.

Now, the Korea Consumer Agency (KCA), has announced it has found that three out of 21 cosmetics products imported from China were tested to contain a higher level of mercury than the national regulation of 1 parts per million (ppm).

Mercury is used in skin-brightening cosmetics since the chemical stops the production of melanin, which darkens the skin; however, many countries have banned the chemical from being used in cosmetics as it is toxic.

Astronomically higher levels

The levels found by the KCA were 15,000 times higher than the permissible level, with Chinese imports Vision and Qu Ban Gao creams as the culprits, along with a Melanin Treatment with an unknown country of origin.

“The Korea Food and Drug Administration should exercise stronger control over products that advertise their whitening functions without identify themselves as `functional cosmetics,’” said Ha Jeong-cheol, head of the food and drug safety team at the agency.

The KCA also highlighted the lack of detail provided with the tested products, as just four of the 18 “functional cosmetics” had the right chemical information as required.

Teeth whiteners too

According to the Yonhap News Agency, the KCA also said that higher levels of hydrogen peroxide than the government permits were detected in two imported teeth-bleaching products: one from China and the other from the US, with 10.3 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively. Products with over 3 percent hydrogen peroxide are prohibited.

“The European Union bans teeth whitening products for those under age 18, but six teeth whiteners in Korea had a different age standard for use,” Ha said, adding, “The system needs to be fixed as soon as possible,” added Ha Jeong-cheol.

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