Group Blasts Unlawful Sale of “Toxic Duo” for Whitening the Skin
1 March 2023, Quezon City. Ahead of the International Women’s Day, the EcoWaste Coalition deplored the continued sale of illegal cosmetics with high levels of mercury that target Filipino women aspiring for a lighter skin tone.
The group specifically denounced the sale of Goree Beauty Cream and 88 Total White Underarm Cream, or what it calls as the “toxic duo,” as they are often displayed in store shelves next to each other despite being banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The Pakistan-made Goree Beauty Cream is for whitening the face and the Thailand-made 88 Total White Underarm Cream is for whitening the armpit. Both products are not duly notified with the FDA and are not authorized to be imported, distributed and sold.
“These illegal cosmetics are sold with impunity, offline and online, as if they are legal to sell and safe to use,” lamented Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition. “We urge the authorities, national and local, to take swift action against this 'toxic duo' and other contaminated cosmetics to protect our women and children from mercury poisoning.”
“Women, who are the principal marketing target for skin whitening cosmetics, are highly susceptible to mercury toxicity, especially if they are of child-bearing age,” she warned. “Mercury exposure among pregnant women can adversely affect the neuorological and cognitive development of children,” she added.
“Also, we urge the government, with the help of the mass media and the civil society, to launch a campaign that will counter the erroneous, if not discriminatory and racist, marketing ploy equating whiteness with beauty, and promote the fact that there is beauty in all skin colors,” she said.
In 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned Goree Beauty Cream for containing levels of mercury in excess of the threshold limit of one part per million (ppm) – the limit set under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive as well as the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
As stated in FDA Advisory No. 2017-289, all concerned establishments were warned not to distribute Goree Beauty Cream, which are available in two variants (Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene and Goree Day & Night Beauty Cream), or face regulatory actions and sanctions.
In 2021, the FDA through Advisory No. 2021-1187 cautioned the consuming public against the purchase and use of 88 Total White Underarm Cream. “The use of such violative products may pose health risks to consumers,” the agency warned
According to the FDA, “adverse health effects brought about by highly toxic mercury in cosmetic products include kidney damage, skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring” adding “chronic use reduces the skin’s normal resistance against bacterial and fungal infections.” Other health effects include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy.
The EcoWaste Coalition, which is campaigning for a zero waste and toxics-free society, has been exposing the persistent trade of mercury-added cosmetics in the Philippines since 2011.
Last month, the group sought the help of the governments of Pakistan and Thailand to stop the manufacture and export to the Philippines of skin lightening products with mercury content in compliance to the 2020 global phase-out of such cosmetics under the Minamata Convention on Mercury.