By Nelson Flores, Ll.B., MSCK
AN environmentalist group on Sunday asked Manila City government to take action against retailers of mercury-laced skin whitening products due to the imminent danger or injury they pose to consumers.
The EcoWaste Coalition made the plea after its members were able to two brands of imported skin lightening creams from China that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had banned in 2010 and 2015 respectively.
“We call upon the local government, health and police authorities of the City of Manila to go after unscrupulous retailers of banned cosmetics contaminated with mercury, a chemical that is highly hazardous to health and the environment,” said EcoWaste Chemical Safety Campaigner Thony Dizon.
The FDA had earlier requested local government units and law enforcement agencies “to ensure that these products are not sold or made available in their localities or areas of jurisdiction.”
In test buys Saturday, EcoWaste activists found out how easy to buy Jiaoli Miraculous Cream and S’Zitang 10 Days Eliminating Freckle Day & Night Set from stalls selling beauty products and herbal food supplements at a shopping mall in Recto Avenue, Quiapo, Manila.
With the help of a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometer, the group detected 2,077 parts per million (ppm) in the day cream of the Jiaoli product and 311 ppm in its night cream. For the S’Zitang product, the day cream had 2,879 ppm of mercury and the night cream had 1,566 ppm.
Mercury is not allowed as an ingredient in cosmetic product formulations under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive, which has also set 1 ppm as the maximum trace amount limit for mercury in cosmetics.
According to FDA Advisory 2010-002 banning Jiaoli, “cosmetic products containing such impurities/contaminants that are way beyond the allowable limit clearly pose imminent danger or injury to the consuming public.”
First banned in 2015 through FDA Advisory 2015-025, the FDA reiterated the ban on S’Zitang with the issuance of FDA Advisory 2018-183 last May 29.
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. Chronic use reduces the skin’s normal resistance against bacterial and fungal infections.”
“Other effects include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy,” the FDA said.
It also warned that “the transfer of mercury to fetuses of pregnant women may manifest as neurodevelopmental deficits later in life.”
The EcoWaste Coalition said that skin lightening creams and soaps with mercury content above 1 ppm are subject to phase-out by 2020 under the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which the Philippines signed in 2013.