Watchdog finds mercury-containing skin whiteners still on sale despite govt. ban

Related tags Skin whitening

Despite a government ban on cosmetics containing mercury being sold in the Phillipines, a public interest group claims to have found 11 brands of skin whitening products containing mercury still available in stores.

Five retail outlets in the Novaliches District were found to be selling 11 brands of mercury-laden skin whitening products located inside the Plaza Mall (known as the Nova Mall), Susano Complex and in one other store.

"This is by far our most toxic sighting in Quezon City, which clearly shows that the unlawful trade in mercury-laced cosmetics goes unabated despite the government's ban,"​ says Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition's Project Protect.

Caught out

"We therefore appeal to our cosmetics regulators and law enforcers to take swift action against erring retailers and their suppliers to protect susceptible consumers from being exposed to these dangerous goods.”

Using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) chemicals analyzer, the watchdog group detected mercury in 11 of the samples in the range of 977 parts per million (ppm) to 12,600 ppm, way above the allowable limit of 1 ppm set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

None of the tainted products listed mercury as a product ingredient, and none provided complete product information as required under the labeling and fair packaging provisions of R.A. 7394 or the Consumer Act of the Philippines.

Consumer caution urged

"As a precautionary measure, consumers should stop using improperly labeled and unregistered facial creams to lighten the skin tone, prevent acne, remove freckles or erase age marks as these may contain mercury and other bacterial or chemical contaminants,"​ said toxicologist Dr Bessie Antonio of the East Avenue Medical Center.

According to a Health Alert issued by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), "inorganic mercury in face cream is absorbed following application to the skin and toxic levels in the body can develop gradually with prolonged use. The target organs for toxic effects are the central nervous system and kidneys."

The signs and symptoms of mild to moderate toxicity due to exposure to inorganic mercury in skin lightening products, the CDPH said, may include nervousness and irritability, difficulty with concentration, headache, tremors, memory loss, depression, insomnia, weight loss, fatigue, numbness or tingling in hands, feet, or around the lips.

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