Warning Out on Kidney-Damaging Beauty Creams with Mercury


 The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition has again cautioned consumers against the use of skin whitening cosmetics with mercury content that can damage the kidneys.

Citing advisories issued by the Center for Health Protection (CHP) of the Hong Kong’s Department of Health, three cases of suspected mercury poisoning were reported by the Hospital Authority after the patients were found to have proteinuria (the presence of excess proteins in urine), a sign that the kidneys may be damaged.

The patients, all women aged 39, 40 and 43, were reported using Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene and/or Goree Day & Night Beauty Cream for several months prior to hospital admission.

“These so-called beauty creams are also sold to Filipino consumers by unscrupulous importers and retailers, including online sellers, in clear defiance of a public health warning issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in2017,” the EcoWaste Coalition said. “Consumers should steer clear of these unauthorized products to avoid exposure to mercury, a toxic chemical not allowed in cosmetics.”

According to information released by CHP, the patients’ urine samples indicated mercury “higher than the reference level, which was clinically suspected to be related to the use” of the Goree products that tested with “excessive mercury.”

Aside from these three cases, the CHP also received notifications of two more cases involving women aged 34 and 45.

According to the latest advisory issued by the CHP in February 2023: 
"Chronic exposure to mercury can cause damage to the nervous system and kidneys. Symptoms may include tremors, irritability, insomnia, memory deterioration, concentration difficulty, impaired hearing and vision, and change in the taste function. In severe cases, renal failure may occur."

"People who are using these products should stop immediately and consult healthcare professionals as soon as possible if they feel unwell or are in doubt," the CHP said in another advisory issued in November 2022.

According to information sent to the EcoWaste Coalition by Taiwanese academician 
Dr. Yu-Syuan Luo, recipient of the Renal Toxicology Award in 2019 from the Society of Toxicology, “the kidney toxicity of mercury is well-documented,” adding “all forms of mercury are nephrotoxic, but inorganic forms appear more potent than organic ones.”

“Inorganic mercury poisoning following the use of skin-lightening creams commonly manifests with nephrotic syndrome and nephrotoxicity,” he said, stressing “the kidney is the primary target organ for inorganic mercury salts.

Aside from kidney damage, the inorganic mercury in skin lightening cosmetics may also lead to skin discoloration, rashes and scarring, reduced skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, and to anxiety, depression, psychosis and peripheral neuropathy, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

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