Quezon City. It is still business as usual for vendors of imported skin lightening creams that the government had earlier tested and banned for containing high amounts of mercury, a toxic chemical.
The EcoWaste Coalition, a group campaigning for chemical safety, came to this conclusion after purchasing eight (8) brands of the proscribed skin whitening creams in various retail outlets in seven cities in Metro Manila.
“It is obvious from the result of our test buys that the ban on mercury-tainted skin whitening creams is far from being enforced. It’s high time for the government to flex its muscle, conduct stringent monitoring nationwide, and apprehend the culprits. Let us protect unsuspecting consumers from being deceived and harmed by ensuring that only pre-tested mercury-free cosmetics are sold in shops,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“In addition, we urge the authorities to test the numerous skin whitening soaps that have been proliferating in the market for possible mercury contents,” she added.
“In the meantime, we advise cosmetics consumers to check the product labels carefully, reject products listing mercury or any of its forms as ingredients and refuse those that fail to provide adequate information. Without batting an eyelash, consumers should say no to products that list ingredients in a language that they cannot understand,” she also said.
In the test purchases conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol from August 6-9, 2010, volunteers were able to buy six (6) of the 11 products that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned in June 2010, and two (2) of the nine (9) products that the agency banned in February 2010.
These were 1) Doctor Bai Skin Revitalizing Skin Brightening Cream, 2) Gemli Glutathione Hydrolyzed Collagen Whitening and Anti-Aging Cream, 3) Glutathione Grapeseed Extract Whitening and Anti-Aging Cream, 4) JJJ Magic Spots Removing Cream, 5) Sheng Li Day and Night Cream, and 6) S’Zitang Cream, which were banned under FDA Circular 2010-011.
Also, they managed to buy 1) Jiao Li Huichusu Whitening Speckles Removal Cream and 2) Jiao Li 7-Days Eliminating Freckle AB Set, both banned under FDA Circular 2010-004.
The volunteers bought the outlawed cosmetics from food supplement shops operating in various commercial establishments in Monumento, Caloocan City (Grand Central Mall and Victory Mall), Guadalupe, Makati City (Guadalupe Commercial Center and Uni Mec Supermarket), Dagat-dagatan, Malabon City (Malabon Citisquare), Alabang, Muntinlupa City (Starmall) and Cubao, Quezon City (Farmers’ Plaza and Shopwise).
The rest were bought from Chinese medicine stores in Binondo (Ongpin and 168 Mall) and Quiapo (Carriedo), Manila, and in tiangge stalls in Mandaluyong City (Starmall) and Cubao, Quezon City (Farmers’ Plaza).
Despite pending FDA Case No. NCR-DR/CS-10-266 “for selling and offering for sale banned drug products, unregistered and misbranded cosmetic products,” Lam Kang Drugstore in Quiapo was found selling at least three brands of the banned mercury-tainted skin whitening creams (Jiao Li, JJJ and S-Zitang).
The continued vigilance of the EcoWaste Coalition against mercury-tainted cosmetics has prompted the FDA to investigate and files cases against some of the alleged violators.
Aside from Lam Kang Drugstore, the FDA has filed Case No. NCR-DR-10-334 against Five Star Chinese Drugstore in Binondo “for selling and offering for sale unregistered and misbranded cosmetic products.”
Citing information from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the EcoWaste Coalition warns that mercury use in cosmetic products can have adverse effects, including skin rashes, discolouring and scarring, and can reduce skin’s resistance to bacterial and mycotic skin disorders.
Direct and prolonged exposure through the skin during repeated applications, according to UNEP, can cause damage to the brain, nervous system and kidneys.
Additional information for the media:
To ensure consumer protection against mercury-containing cosmetics, the EcoWaste Coalition has asked the Food and Drug Administration to:
(a) to revise the current allowable limit of mercury from 1 part per million (ppm) to zero to ensure that only mercury-free cosmetics are sold in the market;
(b) to require products to be pre-tested for mercury and other toxic substances before being sold to prove that they are safe for the consumers and the environment.
(c) to enforce the required labeling requirements under the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, Consumer Protection Act, Food and Drug Administration Act and other pertinent laws.
(d) to conduct effective public information using all available media that will inform and caution vendors and consumers in both urban and rural areas about the hazards of mercury in cosmetics.
(e) to establish a hotline where consumers can obtain recall and general product safety information as well as report violation of recall orders, and
(f) to publish detailed reports to inform the public on how recall orders were implemented.