Quezon City. The sale of skin whitening cosmetics laden with mercury remains rife, a toxics watchdog lamented after finding more contaminated products that are openly sold in the market, particularly in Divisoria.
“We are dismayed by this unlawful sale of mercury-containing cosmetics despite nonstop efforts by the government, civil society and the media to inform vendors and consumers about the risks of using such dangerous products,” said Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“Mercury is highly toxic to human health and exposure to mercury in skin lightening products may damage the kidneys, decrease skin resistance to bacterial and fungal infections and cause other health problems,” she said.
The EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol on Tuesday went to Divisoria and purchased five items from stores selling beauty products and Chinese medicines. The samples were screened today for mercury using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer.
The EcoWaste Coalition has forwarded its findings to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has so far banned 71 mercury-containing skin whitening creams since 2010.
As per XRF analysis, two of the samples yielded positive for mercury above the government’s allowable limit of one part per million (ppm):
1. “White Advance Hydroxytyrosol L-Glutathione Whitening and Anti-Aging Cream,” supposedly manufactured by Vitality Health Center, USA, with 4,489 ppm of mercury (bought from VitaGreen Chinese Drug Store, DS-21, Ground Floor, Primeblock Bldg., Tutuban Center, Divisoria)
2. “Zyiang Day Cream” (no label), with 10,100 ppm of mercury (bought from Shawill Mini-Shop, 703 Sto. Cristo St., Divisoria)
“The inhalation of mercury vapour can produce harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, lungs and kidneys, and may be fatal,” warned the World Health Organization (WHO).
“Neurological and behavioural disorders may be observed after inhalation, ingestion or dermal application of different mercury compounds,” the WHO said, adding that “symptoms include tremors, insomnia, memory loss, neuromuscular effects, headaches and cognitive and motor dysfunction.”
WHO has also warned that “mercury in soaps, creams and other cosmetic products is eventually discharged into wastewater.”
“The mercury then enters the environment, where it becomes methylated and enters the food-chain as the highly toxic methylmercury in fish,” it said.
WHO has warned that “pregnant women who consume fish containing methylmercury transfer the mercury to their fetuses, which can later result in neurodevelopmental deficits in the children.”