Toxics Watchdog Bares Illegal Sale in Davao City of Banned Mercury-Tainted Skin Whitening Cosmetics

A non-profit watch group on harmful chemicals in products and wastes has revealed the sale in Davao City of imported skin whitening cosmetics banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for containing mercury, a highly toxic substance.

The EcoWaste Coalition today disclosed it was able to purchase 14 non-notified skin lightening creams costing P50 to P150 each from retailers in Davao City.  

All the 14 items analyzed by the EcoWaste Coalition for mercury are contraband cosmetics that have not gone through and passed the quality and safety verification of the FDA.

Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect, revealed that he bought the items last week from beauty and herbal product stores located at Bankerohan and DCLA Uyanguren.

“We deplore the illegal sale of mercury-loaded cosmetics that are supposed to lighten the skin and remove age spots, blotches, freckles and wrinkles.  We request Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and DCPO Director PSSupt Alexander Tagum to mobilize the resources at their disposal to protect Dabawenyos from being duped into buying these poison cosmetics,” he said. 

Upon returning to Quezon City where the EcoWaste Coalition is based, the items were screened for mercury using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device.

XRF screening results indicate high concentrations of mercury up to 41,400 parts per million (ppm) in 11 items in violation of the maximum allowable limit of 1 ppm under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.

Yudantang  10-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle Spot & Double Whitening Sun Block Cream from Taiwan topped the list with 41,400 ppm, followed by S’Zitang 10-Day Whitening & Spot Day Night Set (2,803 ppm), Jaoli Miraculous Cream (2,392 ppm), Jiaoli Speckle Dispelling and Whitening Cream (1,287 ppm), Jiaoli 7-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set (2,468 ppm), S’Zitang Yang Bai Su (1,467 ppm), and S’Zitang 7-Day Specific Whitening & Spot AB Set (2,660 ppm).

Ansina Whitening Sunblocking Cream and Erna, screened negative for mercury but are still illegal to sell for lacking the required cosmetic product notification as per FDA Advisories. Another product, a non-notified S'Zitang Perfect Magic Peeling Cream (Snail & Papaya), also screened negative for mercury.  

The 9th ASEAN Cosmetic Committee endorsed the 1 ppm limit for mercury  contamination in cosmetics in 2007, while the US FDA banned cosmetics with over 1 ppm trace amount of mercury way back in 1973, Dizon said. 

The global community through the Minamata Convention on Mercury has agreed to phase out by 2020 skin lightening cosmetics with mercury above 1 ppm.

According to the World Heath Organization, “the main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage.” 

“Mercury in skin lightening products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections,” the WHO warned.

The WHO has also warned that mercury in skin lightening products and other cosmetics is subsequently disposed into wastewater contaminating the marine ecosystems.

“The mercury (from cosmetics) then enters the environment, where it becomes methylated and enters the food-chain as the highly toxic methylmercury in fish,” the WHO explained.

“Pregnant women who consume fish containing methylmercury transfer the mercury to their fetuses, which can later result in neurodevelopmental deficits in the children,” it said. 


Reference: ment/public_health/mercury_fly er.pdf es-2/cosmetic-2/423004-fda-adv isory-no-2017-065


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