Mercury-containing cosmetics found in Singapore

By Chris BARKER

- Last updated on GMT

Mercury-containing cosmetics found in Singapore

Related tags: Cosmetics

The Singapore Health Services Authority (HSA) has seized the stock of two mercury-containing cosmetics products sold in Singapore.

The health organization detected high levels of mercury in samples taken from the creams. The products pulled were Melati UV-Whitening Vit. E Cream and Esther Bleaching Cream (A) and (B).

The creams were available both in online and retail shops. Neither skin whitener listed their ingredients on the packaging or any accompanying leaflets.

The HSA has advised consumers not to use these products as mercury may cause harmful effects including rashes, skin irritation and damage to the kidneys and nervous system.

Illegal content

A HSA spokesperson said: “Mercury is a prohibited ingredient and should not be intentionally added to cosmetic products under the Regulations." 

"According to our guidelines, the mercury content should not exceed 1ppm (part per million) in any cosmetic product. No cosmetic can exceed this trace amount.”

It also pointed out that: "Cosmetic products are sampled for testing on heavy metals, such as mercury, as part of HSA’s post-market surveillance activities." 

Illegal Ingredients

The news comes several months after a HSA investigation revealed that three cosmetics from the Tabita brand contained high quantities of illegal ingredients, including mercury and hydroquinone, tretinoin and salicyclic acid.

A woman developed rashes and whitening of the skin after using these products.

Speaking on the issue, a HSA spokesperson said: "Consumers need to be aware of the risk of purchasing products online. Unlike other commodities, the use of poor quality and falsely labelled health products including cosmetics can cause serious health effects."

Mercury cosmetics

Mercury is used in illegal skin-lightening cosmetics because it inhibits the production of melanin, thus giving a whiter appearance. The chemical also acts as a preservative and germ killer.

However, in the longer term mercury-containing products react to sunlight and actually lead to increased pigmentation. 

Skin-whitening creams also sometimes contain ingredients such as steroids and Hydroquinone, which can lead to health problems.

Selling cosmetics products containing mercury is forbidden in Singapore under the Health Products (Cosmetic Products- ASEAN Cosmetic Directive) Regulations.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety

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