Mercury-laced skin whitening product found sold in Davao

A WATCH group yesterday said that imported skin whitening cosmetics banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for containing mercury, a highly toxic substance, are still being sold in the city.

The non-profit EcoWaste Coalition asked the local government to use its power to clamp down the sales of the toxic cosmetics.

“We request City Mayor Sara Duterte and Police City Director Alexander Tagum to mobilize the resources at their disposal to protect Dabawenyos from being duped into buying these poisonous cosmetics,” said Thony Dizon, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“We deplore the illegal sale of mercury-loaded cosmetics that are supposed to lighten the skin and remove age spots, blotches, freckles and wrinkles,” Dizon said.

Dizon said they were able to purchase 14 non-notified skin lightening creams, which cost P50 to P150 apiece, from retailers in the city. All the 14 items are contraband cosmetics that have not gone through and passed the quality and safety verification of the FDA.

The beauty product stores selling the banned items are located at Bankerohan and DCLA Uyanguren.

The items were brought for examination at the EcoWaste Coalition based in Quezon.

The X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) screening results indicate high concentrations of mercury up to 41,400 parts per million (ppm) in 11 items, in violation of the maximum allowable limit of one ppm under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.

Yudantang 10-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle Spot & Double Whitening Sun Block Cream, reportedly from Taiwan, has recorded the highest mercury contain with 41,400 ppm. It is followed by S’Zitang 10-Day Whitening & Spot Day Night Set (2,803 ppm), Jaoli Miraculous Cream (2,392 ppm), Jiaoli Speckle Dispelling and Whitening Cream (1,287 ppm), Jiaoli 7-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set (2,468 ppm), and S’Zitang Yang Bai Su (1,467 ppm).

Two products — Ansina Whitening Sunblocking Cream and Erna — were both screened negative for mercury but are still banned for lacking the required cosmetic product notification per FDA advisories.

Another product, a non-notified S’Zitang Perfect Magic Peeling Cream (Snail & Papaya), also screened negative for mercury.

The 9th ASEAN Cosmetic Committee endorsed the 1 ppm limit for mercury contamination in cosmetics in 2007, while the US FDA banned cosmetics with over 1 ppm trace amount of mercury way back in 1973, Dizon said.

The global community through the Minamata Convention on Mercury has agreed to phase out by 2020 skin lightening cosmetics with mercury above 1 ppm.

According to the World Health Organization, “the main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage.”

“Mercury in skin lightening products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections,” WHO warned.

WHO has also warned that mercury in skin lightening products and other cosmetics is subsequently disposed into wastewater contaminating the marine ecosystems.

“The mercury (from cosmetics) then enters the environment, where it becomes methylated and enters the food-chain as the highly toxic methylmercury in fish,” it explained.

“Pregnant women who consume fish containing methylmercury transfer the mercury to their fetuses, which can later result in neurodevelopmental deficits in the children,” it said.

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