19 May 2023, Quezon City. The EcoWaste Coalition, an advocate for a zero waste and toxics-free society, has cautioned Filipino consumers against the purchase and use of unauthorized skin-whitening cosmetics from Thailand that are sold with impunity, particularly in online shopping platforms.
“We are alarmed by the proliferation of unauthorized Thai cosmetics in the market, especially in online stores, in violation of our country’s health product safety laws, which, among other things, ban mercury and other hazardous substances as ingredients in cosmetics,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
“As we have barely scratched the surface, we urge the authorities to investigate this threat to public health and intensify regulatory actions to halt this thriving illegal trade,” she said. “Online shopping platforms should remove product listings for unauthorized cosmetics and for cosmetics containing banned chemicals like mercury.”
The watchdog group has so far collected and screened for harmful chemicals in 26 Thailand-made cosmetics for whitening the skin, reducing wrinkles and removing blemishes, patches and spots, including 24 facial creams, one lotion and one soap.
Of these 26 products, 15 were found positive for mercury above the one part per million (ppm) limit for mercury as a contaminant under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive. Of these mercury-tainted cosmetics, seven products had mercury levels above 10,000 ppm.
While the 11 products screened negative for mercury, their safety from bacterial and chemical contaminants cannot be guaranteed as the products – like the mercury-containing ones – have not passed the quality and safety verification by the health authorities.
Among the 15 mercury-positive products discovered by the group are 4K Plus 5X Whitening Night Cream, 88 Whitening Night Cream, 88 Total White Underarm Cream, Lady Gold Seaweed Gluta/Super Gluta Brightening, Meyyong Seaweeds Super Whitening, Polla Gold Super White Perfects, White Nano, Snow White Armpit Whitening Underarm Cream, five variants of Dr. Yanhee, and two variants of Dr. Wuttisak.
The products were subjected to X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) screening, which detected mercury in the range of 2,486 ppm to 44,540 parts per million (ppm), way beyond the one ppm maximum limit set by the ACD, the Minamata Convention on Mercury, and Notifications B.E. 2559 (2016) and B.E. 2565 (2022) issued by Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health on prohibited substances used as ingredients in cosmetics.
The 11 unauthorized products found negative for mercury include 4K Plus 5X Whitening Day Cream, 4K Plus 5x Whitening Underarm Cream, 888 Total White Whitening Lotion, 888 Total White Whitening Soap, 8888 Total Double Gluta Night Cream, Arche Pearl Cream, Gold 24K Whitening Anti-Melasma Facial Cream, Kim Whitening Ginseng and Pearl Cream, Ocean Whitening Nano Cream, POP Popular Curcuma Cream, and POP Popular Facial Cream.
As stated in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Advisory No. 2021-1187 warning the public against the purchase and use of 88 Total White Underarm Cream, which has no valid Certificate of Product Notification, the use of unauthorized cosmetics “may pose a health risk to consumers.”
“Potential hazards (from unauthorized cosmetics) may come from ingredients that are not allowed to be part of a cosmetic product or from the contamination of heavy metals. The use of substandard and possibly adulterated cosmetic products may result in adverse reactions including, but not limited to, skin irritation, itchiness, anaphylactic shock, and organ failure,” the FDA warned.
To protect human health and the environment from mercury contamination, the EcoWaste Coalition for the nth time urged consumers to steer clear of unauthorized chemical whiteners and further urged the public to accept and celebrate our natural skin tone as Filipinos.