Quezon City. An imported skincare product laden with mercury that the EcoWaste Coalition discovered nine years ago remains contaminated with this potent neurotoxin and is still being sold offline and online.
In its latest effort to raise consumer awareness and promote regulatory action, the EcoWaste Coalition revealed the blatant sale of mercury-containing Feique Herbal Extract Whitening Anti-Freckle Set made in Guangzhou City, China, which it found adulterated with mercury way back in 2014.
“After nine long years, this product still contains mercury, a chemical banned in cosmetics because of its hazardous effects on human health,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition. “The unceasing trade of cosmetics with hidden mercury ingredients points to the need to strengthen compliance and enforcement strategies, including strict customs controls.”
Last June 30, the group managed to buy the said cosmetic from a beauty and herbal product store in Quiapo, Manila for P150 per set. Based on the X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) screening it conducted, both the day and night creams contained mercury measured at 2,955 and 4,060 parts per million (ppm), respectively.
“This dangerous product can also be obtained from local and China-based online sellers,” said Lucero.
The ASEAN Cosmetic Directive prohibits mercury in cosmetic products such as skin lightening cosmetics and sets a trace amount limit of one ppm for mercury as a contaminant in cosmetics.
“An examination of the Feique product label shows that it will expire on December 12, 2026, indicating that it was manufactured after the 2020 phase-out deadline for such mercury-added cosmetics under the Minamata Convention on Mercury,” Lucero noted.
To recall, the EcoWaste Coalition in 2014 found the said Feique cosmetic contaminated with mercury and submitted it, along with six other products, to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for confirmatory analysis.
After confirming the presence of mercury in the submitted products, the FDA subsequently issued a public health warning against the purchase and use of Feique and six other facial creams, which have no market authorization.
Through FDA Advisory No. 2013-053-A as amended in September 2014, the agency ordered its Food and Drug Regulation Officers “to monitor, conduct inventory, and seize all cosmetic products that have no FDA Certificate of Product Notification.”
In the said advisory, local government units were requested “to ensure that cosmetic products that do not have market authorization are not sold or offered for sale or use”, and customs officers were likewise asked “to prevent the entry of unregistered and toxic health products in the country.”
According to the World Health Organization (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.”
“To stop the manufacture, import and export of skin lightening products in line with the Minamata Convention, regulatory actions by governments are needed – including training of customs agents – as well as major media and advocacy campaigns,” suggested the WHO.
“Aside from sustained regulatory actions, an active campaign promoting acceptance of our brown skin is very much needed to encourage Filipinos not to use chemical whiteners to alter our natural skin tone and to resist colorism,” the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized.
Links to online product listings for Feique Herbal Extract Whitening Anti-Freckle Set:
Lazada: Feique Herbal EXTRACT WHITENING
Shopee: Feique Herbal EXTRACT WHITENING