IDIS and ECOWASTE expose illegal sale of mercury-laced cosmetics in Davao City

July 30th, 2013 by

Davao City/Quezon City. – Skin whitening cosmetics containing dangerous levels of mercury, a potent neurotoxin, are being sold in Davao City in brazen violation of the law.

The Interface Development Interventions (IDIS) and the EcoWaste Coalition, which are based in Davao and Quezon Cities, respectively, made the discovery after obtaining 7 skin lightening products with mercury up to 6,633 parts per million (ppm), way above the 1 ppm limit under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive.

Ann Fuertes, IDIS Executive Director, deplored the sale of mercury-tainted cosmetics as “a direct affront to the right of consumers to non-hazardous products,” stressing that “stopping such illegal trade will help in reducing the amount of mercury that gets into our bodies and the environment.”

“We therefore urge the local government and police authorities to get to the bottom of this wicked trade of poison cosmetics in the city and bring violators to justice,” she said.

Fuertes added that the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) should actively disseminate its recall advisories to inform and guide cosmetics vendors and consumers, as well as help law enforcers in performing their duties.

For her part, Aileen Lucero, EcoWaste Coalition National Coordinator, prodded the public to be extra careful when buying cosmetics promising fairer skin complexion and reject unauthorized and insufficiently labeled ones, including those that do not truthfully disclose their chemical ingredients.

She pointed out that “brown is beautiful” and that the quickest way for consumers to avoid mercury exposure in cosmetics is for them “to be satisfied with their natural skin tone and not to use synthetic means to whiten the skin.”

The groups procured the 7 skin whitening cosmetics, costing P75 to P150 per product, from several shops located at Chinatown and other places in test buys conducted on July 28-29 in Davao City.

In addition, the groups also obtained a number of cheap skin whitening products sold for P20 each that have no market authorization from the FDA.

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, a device that can measure the concentrations of heavy metals in consumer products and other media, the groups detected high levels of mercury in the following products:

1)  Erna Whitening Cream with 6,633 ppm
2)  Jiaoli Miraculous Cream with 5,508 ppm
3)  S’Zitang (golden yellow box) with 4,828 ppm
4)  Jiao Li 7-days Specific Eliminating Preckle AB Set with 4,071 ppm
5)  S’ Zitang 7-days Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set with 3,409 ppm,
6)  White Magnolia Powerful Spot Remover Repair Essence with 3,406  ppm,
7)  Jiao Li Speckle-Dispelling & Whitening Cream with 3,042 ppm

The FDA has yet to ban Erna and White Magnolia, while Jiaoli and S’Zitang are among the 93 skin whitening products banned by the agency for containing mercury above the allowable limit.

According to the FDA, “there have been cases of adverse health effects brought about by highly toxic mercury in cosmetic products, such as kidney damage, skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring. Chronic use reduces the skin’s normal resistance against bacterial and fungal infections.”

“The transfer of mercury to fetuses of pregnant women may manifest as neurodevelopment deficits later in life,” the FDA warned

The manufacture, importation, selling or offering for sale of cosmetics without FDA approval or found to contain harmful or toxic substances is in direct violation of Republic Act No. 9711 , the Food and Drug Administration Act, and  Republic Act No. 7394, the Consumer Act of the Philippines. (#)