Toxics Watchdog Chides Online Sellers of Banned Mercury-Laden Skin Whitening Creams
An environmental and health advocacy group chided online entrepreneurs for continuing to ignore public health warnings against skin whitening cosmetics containing mercury, a highly toxic chemical.
In a press statement, the EcoWaste Coalition expressed strong objection over the use of online shopping platforms Lazada and Shopee to sell skin lightening creams from Pakistan that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had already banned way back in 2014 and 2017 due to their mercury content.
“The continued online sale of these mercury-contaminated skin whitening products is a direct defiance of our country’s cosmetic safety regulations,” stated Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“For the health and well-being of our consumers, we ask third-party dealers to desist from selling poison cosmetics that are laced with high concentrations of mercury,” he said.
“We also ask the management of Lazada and Shopee to tighten their policies and procedures to block the promotion and sale of cosmetics lacking market authorization from the FDA, especially products containing hidden toxic ingredients such as mercury,” he added.
The group on Wednesday tracked cosmetic advertisements posted at Lazada and Shopee and found several dealers selling FDA-banned skin whiteners from Pakistan, namely Golden Pearl Beauty Cream, Goree Beauty Cream, and Goree Day & Night Whitening Cream.
Golden Pearl Beauty Cream was among the seven cosmetic products submitted by the EcoWaste Coalition to the FDA in 2014, which the agency tested and confirmed to contain violative level of mercury beyond the 1 part per million (ppm) limit set by the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.
In 2017, the FDA also tested and found the two variants of Goree skincare products contaminated with mercury above the 1 ppm limit.
To protect consumer health, the FDA issued advisories to urge the public not to purchase the said products, and to warn concerned establishments not to distribute them.
The FDA further requested all local government units (LGUs) and law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to ensure that these non-compliant products are not sold or made available in their localities or areas of jurisdiction.
Mercury in skin whitening products inhibits the production of melanin pigment leading to a “fairer” skin tone. However, mercury can cause damage to the nervous, immune and renal systems, and also cause skin discoloration, rashes, and scarring, as well as reduce dermal resistance to bacterial and fungal infections as confirmed by health experts.
Mercury can also affect the endocrine and reproductive systems. Studies have shown that increased mercury levels in the body have been linked with hormonal and menstrual disorders, infertility and miscarriage.
“Babies in the womb are not spared as mercury can cross the placenta during pregnancy and affect the developing brain and nervous system causing cognitive development problems. Fetuses, infants and young children are susceptible to mercury toxicity,” the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.
The Minamata Convention, which the Philippine government signed but not yet ratified, targets a global phase-out of skin whitening cosmetics such as creams, lotions and soaps with mercury above 1 ppm by 2020.
The government recently drew up a National Action Plan for the phase-out of mercury-added products, including skin whitening cosmetics, and the management of their associated wastes.
“We need to put an end to the illegal trade of mercury-containing skin lightening cosmetics, including their sale through online shopping platforms,“ the EcoWaste Coalition said, “to protect public health and the environment from the adverse impacts of mercury poisoning.”
Relevant FDA Advisories:
Examples of Lazada and Shopee Advertisements for Mercury-Laden Skin Whitening Cosmetics from Pakistan: