Consumers Cautioned vs Use of Mercury-Tainted Skin Whitening Cream (Case of Pinay Domestic Helper in Hong Kong: A Wakeup Call)

(Photo from Hong Kong's Department of Health)

The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog, cautioned consumers against a health-damaging skin whitening cream called “Santen” after a Filipina household worker in Hong Kong was hospitalized due to mercury poisoning.

Citing information from the Hong Kong’s Department of Health and the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong, the EcoWaste Coalition reported that the unidentified 28-year old Filipina was admitted for facial swelling at the Queen Mary Hospital last March 17 and discharged on March 21.

“This case of mercury poisoning attributed to the use of a skin whitening cream should serve as a wakeup call to consumers of such cosmetics.  Although it happened to a Filipina in Hong Kong, we have reasons to believe that there are many similar cases locally, which are probably underdiagnosed and not publicly reported,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.  

“Mercury is absorbed by the body through the skin from such product.  Repeated use will consequently increase the amount of mercury in the body as can be seen in the raised levels of mercury in the blood and urine,” she explained.

“As the problem with illegally imported mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics refuses to go away, we advise consumers to reject outright those products with inadequate labeling information, including full ingredient list, instructions for use, special precautions if any and contact details of the manufacturer, importer and/or distributor,” she stated.

According to a news release by the Hong Kong Department of Health, the Filipino national submitted a facial cream that she was using for about a month prior to her admission at the said hospital.

Subsequent laboratory analysis conducted by the hospital showed that the “Santen” cream had mercury that was 15,211 times the acceptable level, which is one part per million (ppm) under the Hygienic Standards for Cosmetics of the People’s Republic of China.

"Chronic exposure to mercury can cause damage to the nervous system and kidneys. Symptoms may include tremors, irritability, insomnia, deterioration of memory, difficulty in concentration, impaired hearing and vision, and change in the ability to taste. In the most severe cases, renal failure may occur," the Hong Kong Department of Health explained.

"As the level of mercury in the product is 15,211 times the acceptable level, use of the product may cause serious side effects. People who have used the above product should stop using it immediately and consult health-care professionals as soon as possible if they feel unwell or are in doubt. Members of the public are urged not to buy or use cosmetic products of unknown composition or from doubtful sources," it added.
From 2010 to date, the Food and Drugs Administration of the Philippines has prohibited 104 skin whitening products for containing excessive levels of mercury above the allowable limit of 1 ppm under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive.

Regular market surveillance by members of the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol had indicated continued sale of the prohibited mercury-laced skin whitening products, particularly in beauty product shops and Chinese drug stores in Metro Manila and other commercial hubs in Cebu and Davao Cities.

The group has announced its plan to conduct a fresh market watch to check if Santen is sold locally to duly forewarn cosmetics regulators and consumers.

-end- (look for 15 April 2014 ”Babala sa Paggamit ng Santen Cream” notice)


Unknown said…
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priyakiran said…
Thank you ....Skin cream plays important role imn whitening our skin....but Be careful while selecting it...
I am using IDC pearl face wash.
Unknown said…
I am also using IDC pearl gel. My sister is using VC 15 vitamin C serum as per her doctor's suggestion.
Wonderful post! Thanks. Consult with a skin and hair specialist, click PRP Treatment in East Delhi