FDA issues new warning on mercury cosmetics

By Chris BARKER

- Last updated on GMT

FDA issues new warning on mercury cosmetics

Related tags: Philippines

The FDA has issued a warning on 15 illegal skin whitening products, many of containing dangerous heavy metals, discovered being imported into the Philippines.

The organization’s advisory identified 11 products with levels of mercury exceeding 1ppm, with the remainder having no market authorization to be on sale.

Mercury can cause health problems including “kidney damage, skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring​,​as well as an increased chance of developing bacterial skin infections.

FDA head Kenneth Hartigan-Go noted that persistent use of the products could lead to major health problems, and that finding high levels of mercury was not surprising in products with no market authorization.

He commented: After careful review of the products, 15 were assayed by the FDA Central Laboratory for toxic mercury levels. Laboratory results showed that 11 out of the 15 products or 73.33 percent were found to contain mercury levels more than 1ppm.”

Mercury found in most skin whitening products

Mercury-containing cosmetics are widely on sale in the Philippines, with a study by environmental group EcowasteCoalition finding that the majority of cosmetics products tested in discount stores contained dangerous chemicals and were banned by the FDA.

The group uses a portable x-ray fluorescence device in order to scan beauty items. In samples of mixed cosmetics taken from 2011-2013, nearly two thirds (61%) were found to contain dangerous chemicals.

Even more disturbingly, the vast majority of skin whitening products examined contained “outrageous” ​levels of mercury and heavy metals.

The FDA has noted in August that approximately 50 brands of banned cosmetics had been found on sale in the Philippines in 2013 alone, with Hartigan-Go blaming the presence of hazardous chemicals on “unscrupulous manufacturers and traders​,

Advice for consumers

Hartigan-Go advised consumers to check the FDA’s website to ensure that products sold in shops were registered and considered safe for use.

He also called on mall owners to exercise their sense of corporate responsibility and ensure that products sold in their outlets are registered, and the Philippine customs department and local government organizations to be vigilant in preventing unregistered products from entering the country.

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