3 August 2023, Quezon City. The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition is again warning Filipino consumers, especially women and girls, to reject skin lightening products containing mercury, a melanin pigment-inhibiting chemical that can damage the brain, nervous system and kidneys, as well as the skin.

According to online test buy conducted by the group, unauthorized Temulawak Day & Night Cream supposedly made in Malaysia contains mercury above one part per million (ppm), the maximum limit set for mercury as heavy metal contaminant under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive (ACD).

The group’s latest exposé was triggered by the recent announcement made by BPOM (the Indonesian Food and Drug Authority) listing Temulawak Day & Night Cream among the 13 mercury-containing cosmetics still in circulation in violation of the ban on mercury in cosmetics such as skin lightening products.

Temulawak Day & Night Cream, as written in Bahasa Melayu on the label: “Removes black spots, acne and wrinkles on the skin. Rough and black skin can be transformed into white, clean and glowing. It can also be used as a foundation to make the skin smooth, radiant and youthful.”

The group purchased the imported product from a Shopee seller based in Zamboanga City. It comes with an Indonesia-made Temulawak brightening soap and toner. The group had previously obtained Temulawak products from retailers in Cogon, Cagayan de Oro City and Quiapo, Manila City.

The group used a handheld Olympus M Vanta X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer to verify the presence of mercury in the sample. Based on the screening it conducted, the Temulawak night cream had 3,399 ppm of mercury.

Prior to BPOM’s announcement, concerned regulatory agencies in Brunei and the Philippines had flagged and banned Temulawak Day & Night Cream for containing mercury above the ACD-prescribed one ppm limit.

In 2022, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the Philippines issued Advisory No. 2022-1347 warning the public against the purchase and use of Temulawak products, including the Day & Night Cream, for having no valid Certificate of Product Notification. Under Republic Act No. 9711, the sale of any health product without the proper authorization from the FDA is prohibited.

The FDA in 2018 also issued Advisory No. 2018-106 informing the public about the tests conducted by the Department of Pharmaceutical Services of Brunei Darussalam indicating that Temulawak (night cream) “buatan Malaysia” (made in Malaysia) contains mercury above 1 ppm and is “banned from the market.”

“Mercury is a naturally occurring heavy metal, which is known to be severely hazardous to health even in small amounts,” the advisory said. “People exposed to mercury exhibits symptoms including, but not limited to, tremors, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet, gingivitis or inflammation of the gums, pink discoloration of the hands and feet, especially in children, irritability, and photophobia or sensitivity to light.”

“Nursing mothers are doubly vulnerable because mercury is passed on to nursing babies through breast milk, which can affect the baby’s development,” it added.

To protect consumers and even non-users like children and babies in the womb from mercury exposure, the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to online shopping platforms to take down product listings for cosmetics containing mercury and those without proper market authorization from the FDA.

The group reminded Filipinos that “there is beauty and dignity in our natural skin color, so refrain from using skin bleaching, lightening or whitening products, particularly contraband cosmetics (which are) not guaranteed safe from mercury, hydroquinone and other harmful substances.”


References:

https://www.kompas.com/tren/read/2023/07/02/122900565/bpom-rinci-13-produk-kosmetik-ilegal-yang-masih-beredar-di-pasaran-terbukti?page=all

FDA Advisory No.2022-1347 || Public Health Warning Against the Purchase and Use of Unauthorized Cosmetic TEMULAWAK:

https://ww2.fda.gov.ph/attachments/article/498103/FDA%20Advisory%20No.%202018-106.pdf

EcoWaste Coalition
Let's make an eco-friendly, zero waste, and toxic-free Philippines a reality.
https://www.ecowastecoalition.org/