Toxics Watchdog Urges Consumers to be Wary of False Advertising Claims, Slams Sale of "Dirty Dozen" Mercury-Laden Skin Whitening Cosmetics

Twelve different brands of imported skin whitening creams found laden with toxic mercury, including nine already banned by the health authorities (above), and BG and Feique creams not yet banned by the government (below).

“The gentle formula keeps your skin soft like a child.”

The EcoWaste Coalition urged consumers to be on their guard against bogus advertising claims - such as the one above - after its latest test buys confirmed the continued sale of mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics in Manila and Quezon Cities in brazen violation of the law.

“Consumers should be cautious of deceptive claims as some cosmetics that promise flawless and lighter skin tone contain undisclosed amounts of toxic mercury, which can damage the kidneys and the skin itself,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

As an example, the group cited two products within the “BG” line of skin lightening cosmetics supposedly from New York, USA, which contain “ten kinds of precious herbal medicines” and whose “gentle formula keeps your skin soft like a child.”

Sold for P120 each at Pan Pacific Chinese Drug Store in 999 Shopping Mall, Manila, the two “BG” creams,  which have no market authorization from the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA), were found to contain up to 51,100 parts per million (ppm) of mercury.

Under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive, the permissible limit for mercury in cosmetics is one ppm.

Inorganic mercury is added to such cosmetics to inhibit the production of melanin (the pigment that gives the skin its color) and bring about lighter skin complexion.

“Inorganic mercury, an unlisted ingredient, in these products can enter the body through the skin.  Repeated use will cause mercury levels in the body to soar as can be seen in the increased mercury levels in the urine,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Repeated application of mercury-laden skin creams could damage the kidneys and renal function,” she emphasized.

Citing an advisory from the World Health Organization (WHO), Lucero further warned that mercury in skin lightening products can also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.

“Instead of the coveted flawless and lighter skin, users of such creams may end up having ravaged skin with uneven pigmentation,” Lucero added.

“Moreover, innocent children can ingest the toxic metal by hugging or kissing adults who use these creams,” she further said.

In its latest toxic exposé, the EcoWaste Coalition reported detecting excessive levels of mercury in 12 products that the group purchased for P80 to P200 each, mostly from Chinese drug stores, last July 13 to 15, 2014.  The products were purportedly made in China, Japan, Taiwan and USA. 

Mercury was detected through the use of a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, a device that can screen toxic metals in consumer goods.

As per XRF screening, the following "dirty dozen" skin whitening products were found to violate the 1 ppm limit for mercury in cosmetics:

1. BG Sea Pearl and Papaya Natural Essence 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Sun Block Cream with 51,000 ppm.

2.  BG Ginseng and Ganoderma Lucidum 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Sun Block Cream with 46,800 ppm.

3.  Yudantang Ginseng and Green Cucumber 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence with 43,500 ppm.

4.  Feique Herbal Extract Whitening Anti-Freckle Set with 28,800 ppm.

5.  Erna Whitening Cream with 8,284 ppm.

6.  Yinni Green Tea Quickacting Whitener and Speckle Remover Package with 6,554 ppm.

7.  Jiaoli Miraculous Cream with 4,740 ppm.

8.  S’zitang with  4,565 ppm.

9.  Bai Li Tou Hong with 2,859 ppm.

10.  Jiaoli 7 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set with 2,184 ppm.

11.  Sanli Eliminating Freckle Cream with 1,305 ppm.

12.  Gakadi with 123 ppm.

The FDA has already banned nine of the above mercury-laced skin whitening creams except for BG and Feique creams.

According to WHO, mercury in soaps, creams and other cosmetic products is eventually discharged into wastewater and then enters the environment, where it becomes methylated and enters the food-chain as the highly toxic methylmercury in fish.

Pregnant women who consume fish containing methylmercury transfer the mercury to their fetuses, which can later result in neurodevelopmental deficits in the children, the WHO warned.