These mercury-containing skin lightening products can be obtained in San Pablo City despite the FDA-issued public health warnings.

Hazardous Cosmetics with Toxic Mercury Openly Sold in San Pablo City

3 June 2024, Quezon City. The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition decried the unlawful sale in San Pablo City, Laguna Province of skin lightening products laced with mercury, a chemical that inhibits the body’s production of melanin but not without side effects.

Last Saturday, June 1, the group monitored the sale in six retail stores of four products that have been banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for containing mercury and/or for lacking valid certificates of product notification.

Openly displayed and offered for sale to consumers aspiring for a lighter skin tone are three variants of Pakistan-made Goree Beauty Cream and Thailand-made 88 Total White Underarm Cream.

The FDA first banned Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene and Goree Day & Night Beauty Cream in 2017 and again in 2023 along with Goree Gold 24K Beauty Cream. 88 Total White Underarm Cream was banned in 2021.

Found selling these FDA-banned cosmetics are Bernelli Beauty Shop and Shoparazzi Health & Beauty Shop at P. Burgos St.; Fashion Health & Beauty Shop, A. Bonifacio St.; Ganda ni Kumare Beauty Essentials, Lopez Jaena St.; and two stores with no signages located at P. Burgos St. cor. M. Basa St. and at P. Zamora St.

This is not the first time that the watchdog group found products contaminated with mercury on sale in San Pablo City.

In 2022, the group alerted the office of re-elected Governor Ramil Hernandez about the illegal sale of Goree and other FDA-banned cosmetics in the municipalities of Los Baños and Sta. Cruz and the cities of Biñan, Cabuyao, Calamba, San Pablo, San Pedro and Sta. Rosa.

The 13 Goree products the group bought during the test buys conducted in 2022 and subsequently analyzed for mercury using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device were all found contaminated with mercury in the range of 26,340 to 29,370 parts per million (ppm).

Under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive, mercury as a heavy metal contaminant cannot exceed the maximum limit of one ppm.

Health experts have identified damage to the kidneys, nervous system and the skin itself among the adverse effects of being exposed to mercury in lightening products.

Both the FDA and the World Health Organization (WHO) have warned against skin rashes, discoloration and scarring, as well as reduction in the skin’s normal resistance against bacterial and fungal infections that may occur due to the use of mercury-added cosmetics.

Even babies and other non-users are not spared as they can breathe mercury vapors emitted from the adulterated cosmetics or get exposed by hugging or kissing persons who have applied such products, especially creams, onto their faces, or by using hankies and towels contaminated with mercury.

The mercury in Goree and other adulterated products will eventually find its way into the environment, contaminating water bodies and the food supply.

To combat mercury exposure via adulterated cosmetics, the EcoWaste Coalition again urged the public to embrace their natural skin color and to refrain from using chemical whiteners, stressing “beauty has no skin tone and that all colors are beautiful.”

The group also urged national and local government agencies to collaborate to put an end to the illegal trade of dangerous cosmetics with mercury in line with the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive and the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

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