EcoWaste Coalition Finds More Mercury-Laced Beauty Creams in the Market, Urges Consumers to Shun Chemical Whiteners and Embrace Natural Skin Color

 

26 April 2021, Quezon City. An environmental health watchdog group today exposed the unlawful sale of five more unauthorized “beauty creams” from Pakistan that are laden with high levels of mercury, a chemical poison banned in cosmetic product formulations.

In its latest ALERTOXIC (a portmanteau of “alert” and “toxic”) advisory, the EcoWaste Coalition revealed the illegal sale of five brands of “beauty creams” smuggled from Pakistan with mercury content as much as 16,900 times the trace amount limit of one part per million (ppm) under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive and the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

“Our discovery of more contraband skin whitening creams laced with mercury justifies the need for nonstop public education, law enforcement and other interventions to break the supply and demand for these poison cosmetics,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.  “We also see the need to counter the deep-seated misbelief that white skin is ABC – attractive, beautiful and cleaner - compared to dark skin.  Colorism or skin color bias has to go!”

"As parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, we appeal to the governments of Pakistan and the Philippines to take stringent measures to enforce the treaty's 2020 phase-out provision for mercury-added cosmetics," added Dizon.  Article 4 of the treaty lists cosmetics, including skin lightening products, with mercury above one ppm among the products whose manufacture, import and export were phased out last year.  

Environmental health scientist Dr. Geminn Louis C. Apostol, Assistant Professor at the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health, pointed out that “pregnant women, nursing mothers and children, including fetuses, are particularly sensitive to the toxic health effects of mercury,” warning that “even non-users such as children and babies can be unsuspectingly exposed through contact with a household member who uses a mercury-containing cosmetic, by touching contaminated materials such as used clothing and towels, or from inhaling mercury vapor in the air.”

Dizon revealed that the items were purchased for P100 to P350 per unit from a mall retailer in Pasay City.  A subsequent check by the group also found one of the products (Golden Pearl Beauty in both new and old packaging) being traded online.

Using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, the group found Parley Goldie Advanced Beauty Cream laced with 16,915 ppm of mercury, AQME Beauty Cream with 16,000, Golden Pearl Beauty Cream (new packaging) with 10,200 ppm, Safora Beauty Cream with 6,410 ppm, and Morning Face Beauty Cream with 5,696 ppm of mercury.

The above products are sold illegally, the EcoWaste Coalition said, as their manufacturers, importers or distributors have not secured the required cosmetic product notifications from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) prior to placing or selling them in the domestic market.

The group also scored the exaggerated and outlandish claims as written on the product packaging and inserts.  For example, one product (Golden Pearl Beauty Cream) declares it “is the only cream in the world which in a very short time makes you look beautiful.” Another product (Parley Goldie Advanced Beauty Cream) boasts itself as offering one solution to 10 problems such as “stain and spots, dark neck, dark fingers, black heads, dark elbow, side effects of make up, wrinkles and freckles, dark feet, pimples, dark circles.” Despite its mercury content, one product (AQME Beauty Cream) insists it can “provide 100% results with no side effects.”

The World Health Organization-published “Mercury in Skin Lightening Products” identified the following as adverse health effects of mercury in some skin whitening products: kidney damage, skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, anxiety, depression, psychosis and peripheral neuropathy.

To prevent exposure to mercury in skincare  products, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the public to take pride in their natural skin color and avoid chemical whiteners, stressing “natural is beautiful.”  

To protect the rights and interests of consumers, the group also cautioned the public against consuming products that have not passed FDA’s quality and safety assessment, and to insist on their right to truthful information, including full disclosure of a product’s chemical content.


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