Health group calls for swift government action after discovering mercury-laden creams for sale in Manila

By Amanda Lim contact

- Last updated on GMT

Health group calls for swift government action after discovering mercury-laden creams for sale in Manila
Philippine-based health group EcoWaste Coalition has urged authorities to impose a ban on cosmetic products containing mercury being sold in Quiapo, Manila.

The group claims it found six unregistered whitening creams with mercury concentrations that ranged from 1,246 to 24,100 parts per million (ppm) being sold for as little as P60 ($1.15).

The six products — Glow Glowing 5-in-1 Beauty Skin, Feique Herbal Extract Whitening Anti-Freckle Set, Goree Day & Night Whitening Cream, Collagen Plus Vit E Day & Night Cream Temulawak Day & Night Beauty Whitening Cream, and Erna Whitening Cream – were purchased by the group and screened for mercury using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

Call for action

The products came from multiple origins including China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan. They were sold at multiple retail outlets.

They were allegedly found to be in violation of the national and regional ban on cosmetics with mercury exceeding the trace amount limit of one ppm under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive (ACD).

“The brazen disregard by unscrupulous traders of the ACD and related public health warnings issued by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the Philippines and its counterpart agencies in ASEAN countries is putting the health of consumers at risk of mercury exposure,”​ said Thony Dizon, chemical safety campaigner of EcoWaste Coalition.

According to EcoWaste Coalition, Glow Glowing 5-in-1 Beauty Skin and Temulawak Day & Night Beauty Whitening Cream have not yet been banned by the local FDA.

Glow Glowing 5-in-1 Beauty Skin was found to contain 24,100ppm of mercury, while Temulawak Day & Night Beauty Whitening Cream was tested to have 7,980ppm of mercury.

While Temulawak Day & Night Beauty Whitening Cream only costs P250 ($4.80), EcoWaste Coalition noted that Glow Glowing 5-in-1 Beauty Skin had a “pricey” tag of P1,700 ($32.60)

It added that Singapore banned a variant of the Glow product in 2017. Temulawak Day & Night Beauty Whitening Cream is currently banned in Brunei and Myanmar.

“We call upon the Manila Health Department to take immediate action to bring the sale of mercury -laced cosmetics in the city to a complete halt,” ​he added.

The other five products are already banned in the Philippines as well as neighbouring countries including Singapore, Indoneisa and Brunei.

Dangers of mercury

Mercury is a highly toxic substance commonly found in products with skin whitening claims.

Regular application of mercury-laced skin creams could lead to skin blotching, discoloration and rashes.

Chronic exposure to mercury in cosmetics products, which can be absorbed through skin, can affect kidneys, digestive and the nervous system, resulting in organ damage.

The harmful effects can also be passed from mother to fetus. If a mother’s mercury levels exceed 1ppm, it can cause neurological impairment, kidney and cardiovascular damage to her baby.

Additionally, mercury can contaminate the marine environment, animals and consequently, the food chain.

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