A Quezon City-based watch group on toxic chemicals, products and wastes cautioned Cebuanos seeking fairer skin complexion to watch out for cosmetics that may do more harm than lighten the skin.
The EcoWaste Coalition, a public interest group, issued the warning after purchasing last week 11 unregistered skin whitening cosmetics for P60 to P130 each from various retail outlets in Cebu City.
Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect, explained that the test buys conducted were part of the group’s advocacy to halt the illegal trade of dangerous cosmetics containing mercury, a highly toxic chemical that is harmful to public health and the environment.
“Our latest test buys provide fresh evidence that the illegal sale of mercury-laden skin whitening products has not ceased in Cebu, and that law enforcement action is needed to put an end to this deplorable trade of poison cosmetics,” he said.
Seven of the 11 skin whitening cosmetics in Cebu --- all bearing the Jiaoli and S’Zitang brands --- were found to contain high concentrations of mercury above the trace amount limit of 1 part per million (ppm) as per the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.
Jiaoli Miraculous Cream and S’Zitang, both banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) since 2010, were found to be laced with mercury amounting to 2,809 and 2,739 ppm, respectively.
According to the FDA, “cosmetic products containing such impurities/contaminants that are way beyond the allowable limit clearly pose imminent danger or injury to the consuming public.”
“The adverse health effects brought about by highly toxic mercury in cosmetic products include kidney damage, skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring,” the agency said.
“Chronic use reduces the skin’s normal resistance against bacterial and fungal infections. Other effects include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy. The transfer of mercury to fetuses of pregnant women may manifest as neurodevelopment deficits later in life,” the FDA warned.
Dizon also reported that the rest of the samples purchased screened negative for mercury.
However, these items may still pose health risks to users as the products lack the required authorization from the FDA in the form of in the form of cosmetic product notification and would be illegal to offer for sale in the market.
Among these non-notified products were Erna Whitening Cream, Cai Mei Sheep Placenta Whitening Foundation Cream, Cai Mei Sheep Placenta Anti-Wrinkle Cream and Cai Mei Sheep Placenta Moisturizing Cream.
Non-notified cosmetics were not subjected to the necessary verification procedures by the FDA and their quality and safety cannot be ascertained.
In light of its findings, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the local government, health and police authorities of Cebu City to go after the distributors and dealers of contraband cosmetics.
“To protect the public health, especially the health of Cebu’s women consumers, we urge Mayor Tommy Osmeña to order the confiscation of mercury-laden skin whiteners and to prosecute the peddlers of such poison cosmetics,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.
Mercury Content of Seven Jiaoli and S’Zitang Skin Whitening Products Bought from Cebu Retailers as Screened by the EcoWaste Coalition Using an XRF Device:
1. Jiaoli Miraculous Cream (2,809ppm)
2. S'zitang (Gold Container) (2,739ppm)
3. Jiaoli 7-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set (2,643ppm)
4. Jiaoli 7-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle Cream (2,265ppm)
5. S'Zitang 7-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set (2,782ppm)
6. S’Zitang 7 Day Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set (1,718ppm)
7. Jiaoli 7-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set (1,439ppm)