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Group finds mercury in more than 300 skin products

More than 300 skin whitening products being sold in the country may have potentially toxic mercury, an ecological group said.

The EcoWaste Coalition said mercury can inhibit the production of melanin leading to fairer skin in the short term, but may harm the skin, kidneys and other organs.

Citing its market investigation from Nov. 19 last year to Feb. 2 this year, the group said the mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics were sold in 50 cities nationwide.

It said the investigation, with support from the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), showed skin whitening products costing P16.75 to P350 each had mercury "many orders of magnitude higher than the allowable trace amount of 1 part per million (ppm) under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive."

Coordinator Aileen Lucero said a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer found 316 samples having mercury above the 1 ppm threshold.

"Of the 316 mercury-containing samples, 287 had mercury above 1,000 ppm, 44 had mercury surpassing 5,000 ppm and 19 had extremely high concentrations of mercury topping 25,000 ppm, with one sample having 96,100 ppm of mercury," it said.

Also, the group said 41 of over 115 skin whitening cosmetics banned by the Food and Drug Administration from 2010 to 2014 are still available in the market.

It also found 26 new brands of mercury-containing skin whitening creams.

Top 12

The top 12 samples of skin whitening creams with highest mercury content per brand include:

- Xuefujiaolan Herbal Whitening and Embellish Classic Set (three small jars), 96,100 ppm
- Beauty Girl 10 Days Double Whitening Speckles Removed Essence, 76,800 ppm
- Yu Dan Tang Gingseng and Green Cucumber 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence, 63,100 ppm
- BG Ginseng & Ganoderma Lucidum 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Sun Block Cream, 59,500 ppm
- BG Sea Pearl & Papaya Natural Essence 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Sun Block Cream, 56,000 ppm
- Beauty Girl Egg White and Tomato 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Cream, 48,700 ppm
- Yu Dan Tang Green Cucumber and Ginseng 6-Day Specific Eliminating  Freckle Whitening Cream, 47,200 ppm
- Feique Herbal Extract Chinese Formula Whitening Anti-Freckle Set, 32,000 ppm
- Feique Cucumber Anti-Wrinkle Whitening Set, 25,800 ppm
- Feique Rose Refining Nourishing Set, 19,500 ppm
- Beauty Excellent Lamb Placenta Whitening and Anti-Aging, 12,900 ppm
- Erna Whitening Cream, 11, 900 ppm

With the findings, the EcoWaste Coalition urged:

- consumers to insist on their right to product information, including the ingredients
- business and industry to follow the Philippine and ASEAN policy on mercury in cosmetics
- importers, distributors and retailers to only offer compliant FDA-notified cosmetics
- FDA to rid the market of dangerous cosmetics, to provide for the environmentally sound storage and disposal of confiscated mercury-containing products.

— Joel Locsin/LBG, GMA News