29 May 2023, Quezon City. As National Kidney Month is observed this June, the watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition advised Filipinos to steer clear of chemical whiteners with mercury content to protect their kidneys and their health from toxic harm.
The toxics watchdog group drew attention to the adverse effects of mercury exposure via contaminated skin-lightening cosmetics that continue to flood the market despite the global on such products under the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
“Consumers of mercury-containing creams marketed to whiten the skin and fight ageing should be aware that using such products can result in renal damage that may require costly medical treatment and hospitalization,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
“To protect their kidneys and their overall health, we appeal to consumers not to resort to chemical whiteners such as skin lightening creams, which are often imported, distributed, and sold without the required authorization from the government, particularly from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” she said.
Among the kidney-damaging mercury-added cosmetics sold online and in physical stores are the Pakistan-made Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene and Goree Day & Night Beauty Cream, which the FDA banned in 2017 for containing mercury above the allowable limit of one part per million (ppm).
The group cited a February 2023 report from the Hong Kong’s Center for Health Protection regarding a suspected mercury poisoning case involving a female patient aged 40 who was found to have proteinuria (presence of excess proteins in the urine) following the use of Goree Day & Night Beauty Cream for several months. “Her urine sample revealed a mercury level higher than the reference level, which was clinically suspected to be related to the use of the above product,” the CHP said.
Considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) among the “ten chemicals of major public health concern,” exposure to mercury may have toxic effects on the renal system, as well as on the nervous, digestive, immune and integumentary systems, particularly the skin.
“Inorganic mercury poisoning following the use of skin-lightening creams commonly manifests with nephrotic syndrome and nephrotoxicity,” said Dr. Yu-Syuan Luo of the National Taiwan University, who also pointed out that “the kidney is the primary target organ for inorganic mercury salts.”
According to the WHO, “nephrotic syndrome can be associated with a series of complications that affect an individual’s health and quality of life.”
As mentioned in the fact sheet prepared for the EcoWaste Coalition by Dr. Lou, “Exposure to inorganic mercury salts like mercury chloride can cause lesions in the proximal tubule in rodents, while consumption of high doses of such mercury compounds can result in severe renal damage in humans.”
Neurological and behavioral disorders may be observed after inhalation, ingestion or dermal exposure of different mercury compounds, according to the WHO. Symptoms include tremors, insomnia, memory loss, neuromuscular effects, headaches, and cognitive and motor dysfunction.
The EcoWaste Coalition again took the opportunity to encourage Filipinos from all walks of life to accept and celebrate their natural skin tone and desist from using chemical whiteners with undisclosed mercury content, which is very hazardous to health.