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Mercury contamination: Philippine FDA bans five beauty creams from Pakistan

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the Philippines has issued separate advisories warning consumers against the purchase and use of five imported “beauty creams” that are sold in the country without market authorisation.

FDA-banned beauty creams
The five FDA-banned beauty creams from Pakistan

Through FDA Advisories No. 2021-3043, 3055, 3057, 3059 and 3060 that were posted on its website on Friday, December 3, 2021, the agency told consumers not to buy and use the following unauthorised cosmetics:  Parley Goldie Advanced Beauty Cream, Safora Beauty Cream, Morning Face Beauty Cream, AQME Beauty Cream, and Golden Pearl Beauty Cream.  It also warned concerned establishments against distributing the said products, which are labeled as made in Pakistan.

“FDA’s latest regulatory action is laudable, but much more needs to be done to fully enforce the national and global ban on skin whitening cosmetics with mercury content, including stopping their uncontrolled sale in online shopping platforms,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

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To prove its point, the group revealed that it had found numerous advertisements for the said FDA-banned beauty creams based on the search it conducted this morning in two popular shopping sites Lazada and Shopee.

The EcoWaste Coalition, which reported the unlawful sale of the said cosmetics to the FDA last April, disclosed that the banned skin lightening products contain mercury above the maximum limit of one part per million (ppm) under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive and the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

Based on the screening conducted by the group using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyser, Parley Goldie had 16,915 ppm of mercury, AQME 16,000 ppm, Golden Pearl 10,200 ppm, Safora 6,410 ppm, and Morning Face had 5,696 ppm of mercury.

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The said cosmetics made no disclosure of mercury compounds on their listed ingredients, while enticing consumers with over-the-top claims as indicated on the product labels and inserts.

For example, AQME brags it can “provide 100% results with no side effects” despite its excessive mercury content.  Golden Pearl claims it “is the only cream in the world which in a very short time makes you look beautiful,” while Parley Goldie contends to offer solution to “stain and spots, dark neck, dark fingers, black heads, dark elbow, side effects of make up, wrinkles and freckles, dark feet, pimples, dark circles.”

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “adverse health effects of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening creams and soaps include kidney damage, skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, anxiety, depression, psychosis and peripheral neuropathy,” adding that mercury in these cosmetics is eventually discharged into waste water where it enters the environment and contaminates the food chain.

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To break the supply and demand for mercury-laced skin lightening products, the EcoWaste Coalition sought the active implementation of the National Action Plan for the Phase-Out of Mercury-Added Products and the Management of Associated Mercury-Containing Wastes” adopted in 2019.

“We also see the need to counter the deep-seated misbelief that white skin is ABC — attractive, beautiful and cleaner — compared to dark skin. Colourism or skin colour bias has to go,” Dizon insisted.  “Natural skin colour is beautiful.”

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