EcoWaste Coalition Bares Illegal Sale of Banned Mercury-Laced Cosmetics in Angeles, Malolos, Olongapo and San Fernando Cities

An X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device is used to screen the items for toxic metals such as mercury.
Banned Jiaoli skin whitening cream on sale at a cosmetics store in Angeles City. 
 Banned Jiaoli and S'zitang cream on sale at a general merchandise store in San Fernando City.
 A Chinese drug store attendant in Angeles City prepares receipt for banned Jiaoli item.
A Chinese drug store keeper in Olongapo City checks the price list for the banned Beauty Girl and Yu Dan Tang skin whitening creams.

The illegal sale of mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics is rife not only in Binondo and Divisoria, but also in major commercial hubs of Central Luzon. 

The EcoWaste Coalition, a watchdog group for toxic chemicals, products and wastes, made this revelation after procuring banned facial creams for lightening the skin complexion from retail outlets in Angeles, Malolos, Olongapo and San Fernando Cities.

The group conducted test buys on March 7 and 8 as part of its continuing campaign to rid the market of toxic beauty products and protect the public, particularly women and girls, against mercury exposure in cosmetics.

According to the World Health Organization, “mercury-containing skin lightening products are hazardous to health” and that “public awareness needs to be raised regarding the types of products and the specific products that contain mercury and the risks associated with mercury exposure.”

“Our investigation proves that banned mercury-laden skin whitening products have crept into the retail market of Region III and could be putting the health of gullible consumers at grave risk,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“These contraband goods can be found on display racks of some Chinese drug stores, herbal and beauty product stalls and general merchandise shops and openly sold without fear or guilt,” she noted.

“In most cases, shopkeepers even gave official receipts,” she added.   

Among the products bought were 12 variants of imported Beauty Girl, Jiaoli, S’zitang and Yu Dan Tang skin whitening creams long banned by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) for containing mercury in excess of the one part per million (ppm) limit under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive.

With the use of a handheld X-Ray-Fluorescence (XRF) chemicals analyzer, the group detected outrageous levels of mercury from 217 to 47,200 ppm in the 12 items brought in from China and Taiwan and sold for P65 to P185 each.

The mercury-contaminated items include Beauty Girl 10-Day Double Whitening Speckles Removed Essence (Ginseng & Green Cucumber) ;  Jiaoli Miraculous Cream;  Jiaoli 7-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set;  Jiaoli 10-Day Eliminating Freckle Day & Night Set;   S’zitang 7-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set;  S’zitang 7-Day Specific Whitening & Spot AB Set;  S’zitang 10-Day Whitening & Spot Day Night Set;  Xinjiaoli 10-Day Whitening Speckles Removed Cream; and Yu Dan Tang 6-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening  Cream (Green Cucumber & Ginseng).

These cosmetics can expose users and non-users alike to toxic mercury, which can cause damage to the skin, kidneys and the nervous systems and hinder healthy brain development of unborn and very young children, the EcoWaste Coalition warned.

“Repeated use of such cosmetics could lead to chronic exposure to mercury that can seriously damage the kidneys, nervous system and the skin itself as manifested by dermal discoloration, rashes and scars,” Lucero said.

Symptoms of mercury poisoning may include change in the ability to taste, difficulty to concentrate, excessive shyness, weakened hearing and vision, insomnia, irritability, memory problems, numbness and tingling in hands, feet or around mouth, and tremors.

The EcoWaste Coalition will forward the results of its test buys, along with copies of the proof of purchase, to the FDA as well as to the concerned city mayors and city health officers for appropriate regulatory action. 

“We urge the authorities to stop the illegal trade of these toxic contraband cosmetics to protect the human health and the environment as envisioned by the Minamata Convention on Mercury,” Lucero said.

The Philippines, represented by Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje, signed the said mercury treaty in 2013 at a UN conference held in Kumamoto, Japan, but has yet to ratify it.



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