Beware: a skin whitening cream made in Malaysia that the government of Brunei recently banned due to its mercury content is being offered for sale in Quiapo, Manila.
The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watch group, alerted the public following the dissemination last March 26 of the ASEAN Post-Marketing Alert System (PMAS) report by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regarding the mercury-laden Temulawak New Day & Night Beauty Whitening Cream.
According to the PMAS report, Temulawak, which is made in Malaysia, was banned from the market by the Ministry of Health of Brunei after being found positive for mercury by the Department of Pharmaceutical Services.
“Temulawak is among the skin whitening cosmetics we bought in July 2017 and subjected to chemicals screening that detected 1,128 parts per million (ppm) of mercury on the night cream, way above the allowable limit of 1 ppm,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
The group obtained the skin whitening set from a specialty store in Quiapo that sells food and health products imported from Indonesia and Malaysia.
“We actually brought this to the attention of the government through the presentation we did at a mercury workshop conducted last year by the Environmental Management Bureau where the FDA also took part,” Dizon said.
Brunei’s MOH said “mercury is prohibited in cosmetic products due to its hazardous effects on human health,” adding "it is readily absorbed through the skin on topical application and tends to accumulate in the body.”
“Exposure to mercury can cause skin rashes, memory loss and muscle weakness while high exposures may result in damage to the brain and kidneys. It is also extremely toxic to unborn children,” it further warned.
“Brunei is not the only country in Southeast Asia that has disallowed the importation and sale Temulawak New Day & Night Beauty Whitening Cream. As per news report, FDA Myanmar also banned this product last year due to the presence of toxic mercury,” Dizon said.
“To prevent consumer exposure to mercury-added cosmetics, the EcoWaste Coalition supports a vigorous multistakeholders' drive versus mercury-tainted skin whitening products sourced from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and other countries,” he added.
"Of course, the simplest way to avoid being harmed by these products is not to patronize them at all and for users to accept their natural skin complexion," he said.
The EcoWaste Coalition further requested the government to hasten the ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which among other things, requires the phase-out of skin lightening products with mercury above 1 ppm.