Imported skin whitening cosmetics containing high concentrations of mercury.
A vendor sells unregistered skin lightening products from Pakistan.
Skin whitening cosmetics illegally imported from Pakistan (the yellow one in the middle is already banned by the FDA).
Goree skin whitening creams from Pakistan banned by the FDA for containing toxic mercury.
In support of the ongoing National Skin Disease Detection and Prevention Week from November 6 to 12, a non-profit toxics watch group cautioned consumers from buying mercury-tainted whitening cosmetics that can seriously harm the skin.
Also known as the Skinweek, the week-long advocacy spearheaded by the Philippine Dermatological Society in cooperation with the Department of Health aims to promote early skin disease detection and prevention, and proper dermatological care.
“Instead of the lighter, smoother and flawless skin complexion, the use of mercury-laced whitening cosmetics can cause skin discoloring, rashes and scarring, while weakening the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“Health experts have warned that direct and prolonged exposure to mercury in cosmetics through repeated applications on the skin can also cause damage to the brain, the central nervous system, and the kidneys,” he added.
“Consumers can best protect themselves against mercury exposure by accepting their natural skin complexion and avoiding the use of adulterated, counterfeit, improperly labeled and unregistered cosmetics, which may contain banned substances,” Dizon said.
To alert consumers, especially women and youth, on the continued sale of skin whitening cosmetics containing violative concentrations of mercury, the EcoWaste Coalition yesterday bought samples of such products from retailers in Manila and Pasay Cities.
The 12 products, costing P60 to P280 each, were found to contain mercury above the maximum allowable limit of one part per million (ppm) under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive.
As per screening using an X-Ray Fluorescence chemicals analyzer, the products (all imported and unregistered) contained mercury from 1,100 to 39,200 ppm.
Nine of these mercury-tainted products were among those already banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), including Goree Day and Night Whitening Cream Oil Free and Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene with SPF 30 Avocado & Aloe Vera from Pakistan, which the FDA banned last October 30.
Here is the complete list of the skin whitening products bought and screened for mercury by the EcoWaste Coalition:
Yu Dan Tang Ginseng & Green Cucumber 10-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle Spot & Double Whitening Sun Block Cream, 39,200 ppm
Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene with SPF 30 Avocado & Aloe Vera, 23,400 ppm
Goree Day & Night Whitening Cream Oil Free, 20,900 ppm
Parley Herbal Beauty Cream with Avocado, 15,600 ppm
Parley Beauty Cream, 12,000 ppm
Collagen Plus Vit E Day & Night Cream, 11,600 ppm
Golden Pearl Beauty Cream, 11,100 ppm
Feique Herbal Extract Chinese Formula Whitening Anti-Freckle Set, 4,296 ppm
Erna Whitening Cream, 3,916 ppm
Jiaoli 7-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set, 2,053 ppm
S’Zitang 7-Day Specific Whitening & Spot AB Set, 2,042 ppm
Temulawak Day & Night Beauty Whitening Cream, 1,100 ppm
The EcoWaste Coalition noted that other ASEAN states, including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand, have on various occasions banned or recalled skin whitening cosmetics due to their high mercury content.
The Philippines acting alone cannot stop the smuggling of mercury-loaded cosmetics into its porous borders, the group said.
“It has to address the problem through bilateral and multilateral initiatives within and outside the ASEAN framework to put an end to the unlawful trade,” the group said.
The EcoWaste Coalition has suggested an ASEAN-wide action to halt the illegal trade of mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics, including strengthening the product alert program of the ASEAN Committee on Consumer Protection to guide consumers, businessmen and government regulators, including customs inspectors, on banned and recalled goods.
ASEAN countries, particularly the Philippines, should pursue the national ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which seeks to protect public health and the environment from toxic mercury, the group said.