Mercury in whitening cream

  • Written by Joey C. Papa
  • Published in Opinion
  • Read: 796

Despite previous warnings of the EcoWaste Coalition about mercury-laden skin- whitening cream products,
several drugstores continue to sell these---because many uninformed buyers continue to buy these

Thony Dizon, coordinator the the Coalition’s Project Protect, lamented that “contraband
cosmetics containing mercury continue to be sold in several beauty product and Chinese medicine stores
with their importers, distributors and retailers brazenly doing it with impunity.  Some retailers even
give official receipts for illegal purchases.”
From September 16 to 21, EcoWaste Coalition representatives bought several, varied samples of
“non-notified, imported” products from Chinese drugstores and beauty product shops in Manila, Parañaque,
Pasay, and Quezon cities in Metro Manila; Antipolo City in Rizal; Angeles and Mabalacat cities in
Pampanga; Malolos and San Jose Del Monte cities in Bulacan; San Pedro and Biñan cities in Laguna; and
Tanauan City in Batangas.
From the tests conducted on the products, it was found that from “the 35 products procured for
P60 to P240 each and screened for mercury using an X-Ray Fluorescence device, 33 were found to contain
mercury up to 46,000 ppm. Among the samples that were found to contain over 5,000 ppm of mercury were
Yudantang 6-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Cream (with 46,000 ppm), Yudantang  10-Day
Specific Eliminating Freckle Spot & Double Whitening Sun Block Cream (38,400 ppm), Parley Herbal Beauty
Cream with Avocado (16,200 ppm), Parley Beauty Cream (15,100 ppm), Golden Pearl Beauty Cream (10,500
ppm), Collagen Plus VitE Day & Night Cream (7,662 ppm) and Erna Whitening Cream (5,107 ppm).  Several
variants of Jiaoli and S’Zitang, the two most commonly available imported skin whitening creams, were
found to contain mercury ranging from 591 to 4,719 ppm.”

Laban Konsyumer, Inc. supported the call of the Coalition, as it stressed on the provision in
the Consumer Act of the Philippines protecting consumers against hazards to health and safety. It’s
president, Atty. Victorio Dimagiba urged the authorities “to prosecute those behind the illicit trade of
mercury-containing skin whiteners and other cosmetics without the prerequisite product notifications.  
Punishing the culprits to the fullest extent of Republic Act 9711 will send a strong message that our
country is serious about protecting our consumers against mercury exposure via cosmetic use.”
The government, through the Departments of Health, Trade and Industry, and Interior and Local
Government  should raise the alarm through a sustained information campaign, to warn the public against
these harmful products, in line with our commitment as co-signatory to the Minamata Convention, an
international treaty which aims “to protect the human health and the environment from anthropogenic
releases of mercury and mercury compounds.”
The Minamata Convention, the Coalition stated, targets the phase-out of skin lightening products
with mercury above one part per million (ppm). “The country’s ratification of the Minamata Convention
should help in promoting closer collaboration between governments in enforcing mercury control measures,
including the phase-out of mercury-added products,” said the Coalition and Laban Konsyumer, Inc.
The Coalition cited the Food and Drug Administration’s statement that “mercury salts in cosmetic
products inhibit the formation of melamin in the skin, resulting in a lighter skin tone. 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. The transfer of mercury to fetuses of
pregnant women may manifest as neuro development deficits later in life.”
Since 2010, according to the Coalition, the FDA banned over 135 mercury-containing skin
lightening creams, including  80 brands that the Coalition itself discovered through its periodic market
monitoring and chemicals in product analysis.
Seven years have passed but it seems no penalties have been meted out on the violators. The
Coalition said that “RA 9711, or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Act, states that any person who
violates the law shall, upon conviction, suffer the penalty of imprisonment from one to not more than 10
years or a fine of not less than P50,000 but not more than P500,000.  Stiffer penalties and fines await
erring manufacturers, importers or distributors.”