Despite government’s warning against its illegal sale, a skin lightening product laced with toxic mercury has yet to be removed from the market.
The EcoWaste Coalition, a watch group tracking toxic chemicals, products and wastes, revealed that S’Zitang 10 Days Eliminating Freckle Day & Night Set, which health authorities banned over two weeks ago, are still sold in seven cities in Metro Manila.
The Food and Drug Administration last May 29 issued FDA Advisory No. 2018-183 warning the public against the distribution, sale and use of S’Zitang after finding it to be laden with mercury above the trace amount limit of one part per million (ppm) as per the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.
Test buys conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition on June 12 and 13 uncover the illegal sale of S’Zitang for P75 to P150 each by Chinese drug stores, herbal supplement stores and beauty product stores in Caloocan, Makati, Manila, Parañaque, Pasay, Pasig and Quezon Cities.
The FDA had threatened concerned establishments not to distribute the said product or “regulatory actions and sanctions shall be strictly pursued.”
“Despite stern warning from the FDA, unscrupulous retailers continue to sell S’Zitang, which is damaging to human health as well as the environment because of its mercury content,” stated Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
All the 10 samples of S’Zitang procured by the group had average mercury content of 2,467 ppm for the day cream and 1,344 ppm for the night cream as detected by a portable X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometer.
Mercury absorbed through the skin from prolonged exposure can harm the kidneys, the brain and the central nervous system, and may also result in skin discoloration, rashes, scarring and other side effects, the group pointed out.
“To bring this unlawful trade to a halt, we urge the FDA to make good on their threat, seize the banned product, and prosecute the violators to the full extent of the law,” Dizon pointed out.
The group had earlier lauded government operatives for confiscating last Friday banned mercury-tainted Goree skin whitening products worth P96,000 from retailers at 999 Shopping Mall in Manila.
“Law enforcement efforts by the combined elements of the FDA Regulatory Enforcement Unit, Philippine National Police and Bureau of Customs could break the supply chain of S’Zitang, Goree and other dangerous cosmetics laden with mercury,” Dizon added.
The seized products, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized, should be considered as hazardous waste, not mixed with ordinary trash, and disposed of in a safe manner to prevent mercury from entering and polluting the environment, including the ocean ecosystems.
According to the UN Environment, “when products containing mercury are discarded into the general waste stream, they often end up in the environment where they may be burned... (releasing) the mercury they contain into the air, water, and soil.”