Unauthorized Cosmetics Found to Contain Mercury

Two skin care products recently flagged by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as unauthorized cosmetics not to be purchased and used were found to contain mercury by the EcoWaste Coalition.

As per FDA Advisories 2022-1331 and 2022-1332 marked July 14, 2022 and posted on the agency’s website last Friday, Ailke Superior Whitening and Regenerating Set and Ailke Technology Perfection Salvation Rosy Whitening A+B Set had no valid certificates of product notification, stressing that their sale constitute a violation of Republic Act 9711, or the FDA Act, which prohibits the sale of any health product without the proper authorization from the agency. FDA Circular 2012-009 issued on September 3, 2012 also identified an “Ailke Perfect Salvation Rosy Whitening A+B Cream” as “imminently injurious, unsafe or dangerous” for containing mercury.

“Consumers should pay attention to these life-saving advisories to protect their own health and that of their family from the adverse effects of exposure to mercury in these chemical skin whiteners,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition, adding “online shopping sites should take down at once all product listings for these dangerous cosmetics to protect public health and the environment.”

The toxics watchdog group, which has been tracking mercury in cosmetics since 2011, detected mercury way above the one part per million (ppm) limit on samples of the said products, which the group purchased from online sellers during the 6.6 online shopping sale last month.

Using an Olympus Vanta M Series X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, the group detected 28,780 ppm of mercury on the night cream of Ailke Technology Perfection Salvation Rosy Whitening A+B Set. On the other hand, the night cream of Ailke Superior Whitening and Regenerating Set had 24,180 ppm.  

Last March 2, 2022, ahead of the International Women’s Day,  the EcoWaste Coalition alerted the FDA through a letter about the continued sale in online shopping platforms of the said Ailke cosmetic products and other unauthorized skin whiteners laden with mercury.

Mercury is among the substances banned in the composition of cosmetic products under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive, which, like the Minamata Convention on Mercury, sets a one ppm trace limit for mercury in cosmetic products. 

Mercury has been listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) among the "10 chemicals of public health concern," warning that mercury use in skin lightening cosmetics can lead to adverse health effects, including skin rashes, discoloration and scarring, and reduced dermal resistance to bacterial and mycotic skin disorders. 

WHO has also warned that repeated applications of such products onto the skin can cause damage to the kidneys, the brain and the central nervous system.

The EcoWaste Coalition pledged to sustain its market investigation to help the authorities in eliminating mercury-added cosmetics in the market in line with the 2020 global phase-out of such cosmetics as per the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

The group also repeated its call to Filipinos, especially women and girls, to accept their natural skin tone, shun chemical whiteners and fight colorism, emphasizing "natural is beautiful."