24 May 2010

FDA Asked to Step Up Action vs. Mercury-Tainted Cosmetics


The latest toxic scare in cosmetics in US prompted a non-governmental toxic watchdog to ask the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to intensify its action against mercury-tainted cosmetics for consumer health and safety.

In a letter delivered today to the office of FDA Director Nazarita Tacandong, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the regulatory agency to conduct further tests on skin whitening creams and lotions for mercury, a toxic metal.

The EcoWaste Coalition also asked the FDA to organize random market inspection and to apprehend and charge dealers of certain China-made skin whiteners that were previously banned by the agency for containing elevated amounts of mercury.

The EcoWaste Coalition further requested the FDA to conduct a more comprehensive testing of cosmetics (for example: fragrance, makeup,lipstick, nail polish, deodorant, shampoo, soap and other personal care products) for chemical substances that are toxic to the brains and are linked to birth defects, endocrine disruption, developmental disorder, cancer and other health problems.

Last Tuesday, Chicago Tribune reported that six of the 50 skin lightening products that it bought and sent to a certified laboratory for testing were found to contain high levels of mercury prohibited under US federal law.

Responding to the Chicago Tribune probe, the US FDA said last Friday that it will investigate skin-whitening creams for dangerous amounts of mercury and will take enforcement action if necessary.

Brands found tainted with mercury include Ling Ji Su (manufactured in China), Luluajina (China), Top-Gel MCA Extra Pearl Cream (Taiwan), Shabright Clear and Bright Formula (India), Stillman’s Skin Bleach Cream (Pakistan) and Crème Diana (Lebanon).

Of these, five tested with more than 6,000 parts per million (ppm) of mercury, with Stillman’s Skin Bleach Cream registering the highest amount of mercury at 29,600 ppm. The Philippine FDA’s allowable limit is 1 ppm.

Zenna Chemical Industry Co. notified Chicago Tribune that the tainted Top Gel products could be counterfeit, claiming that the company’s own laboratory results indicated no mercury in their products.

Following the disclosure that attracted media attention all over US, the EcoWaste Coalition’s “AlerToxic Patrol” combed 18 drug stores, beauty shops and grocery stores in Binondo, Quiapo and Paco to check if the said products are sold locally.

“We were able to buy one of the brands from various outlets, but we have yet to establish if the items we got were the same samples Chicago Tribune sent to the lab for testing. We therefore request the FDA to duly test them and assure the public that only safe products are sold in the market,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project PROTECT.

But, what really shocked the “AlerToxic Patrol” was the ease of buying skin whitening products that were already banned by the FDA by virtue of FDA Advisory 2010-002 and FDA Circular 2010-004.

“What came as a shocker during our store investigation was the easiness of buying mercury-tainted Jiao Li skin whiteners that the FDA banned in February this year,” Lucero pointed out.

FDA had earlier instructed food and drug regulation officers to seize the mercury-tainted cosmetics and even sought the help of all enforcement agencies to apprehend and lodge appropriate criminal action against those selling the banned items.

“For the health and safety our women consumers, we urge the Department of Health, particularly the FDA, to actively seek the elimination of mercury and other harmful chemicals such as lead, phthalates, dioxane, formaldehyde, hydroquinone and steroids in personal care products, and to conduct more effective consumer advisories to inform and educate our people about chemical hazards and safer alternatives,” Lucero added.

According to “Mercury: A Priority for Action” published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), mercury use in cosmetic products can have adverse effects including skin rashes, and can reduce skin’s resistance to bacterial and mycotic skin disorders.

Direct and prolonged exposure through the skin during repeated applications can cause damage to the brain, nervous system and kidneys, the UNEP said.
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Click to see photos of six skin whitening products that Chicago Tribune reported to have high mercury levels:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/health/ct-met-0517-skincream.eps-20100518,0,4359807.graphic

Click to read the Chicago Tribune report:

EcoWaste Coalition
Unit 329, Eagle Court Condominium
Matalino St., Quezon City, Philippines
+63 2 441-1846
ecowastecoalition@yahoo.com

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