Health scare over P&G cosmetics grips Asia

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Procter & Gamble is on the defensive after authorities in the
Guandong and Hong Kong region of China discovered high levels of
dangerous chemicals in its SK-II skin care line following routine
testing.

Riots have already been reported in Shanghai as furious consumers bemoaned the 21-day wait for refunds on the high-end line, while authorities in Singapore, South Korea and Japan have all reported that they are testing the line to confirm whether or not it is deemed to be safe.

The action was sparked off after the China authorities alerted consumers to the fact that its tests had shown that a number of SK-II skin care products, including the skin whitening creams, had tested positive for the heavy metals, chromium and neodymium - substances that are banned in such products there.

The products were manufactured at P&G's production facility in Japan, which produces the SK-II line under the company's Max Factor name.

Experts say that both the chemicals could cause skin outbreaks and allergic reaction. Chromium is found to cause skin diseases such as allergic dermatitis and eczema when applied topically while Neodymium can cause eye irritation and mucosa.

Representatives of the company's SK-II line in Asia say that although they remain convinced of the products' safety, they are proceeding to remove the line from retail shelves.

A representative from P&G's Singapore operations said that traces of chromium and many other heavy metals are to be found in a range of compounds and are often unavoidable.

However, the company said that these ingredients were not used in any of its current product lines and that investigations were currently under way to discover how traces of the ingredient may have contaminated the production process at the Japanese facility.

"Even in the unlikely event that these chemicals have entered our products, the reported amounts found by China's authorities is less than one-hundredth in the case of chromium and one-thousandth in the case of neodymium than what WHO (World Health Organization) guidelines say is safe to eat per day,​" said Noriyuki Endo, a P&G spokesman in Tokyo in an interview with Reuters.

According to some press reports from the region, a number of women have already reported adverse reactions to the product line, mainly after using the skin whitening line.

The product, which retails at more than $100 for a 200ml bottle, is a popular choice with many women in Asia who deem a fair complexion to be the very height of beauty. Many women, and increasingly men, spend significant amounts of money in the region every year in the hope of achieving this desired effect through the application of a vast range of products that now cram retail shelves.

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