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Watchdog group exposes over-the-counter sale of skin lighteners tainted with mercury in Tacloban City

The toxics watchdog group BAN Toxics today exposed the unlawful sale of three variants of Goree skin lightening products, banned since 2017 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to health damaging mercury concentrations.

In a market surveillance conducted by the BT Patrollers, the group discovered the over-the-counter sale of Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene Avocado & Aloe Vera, Goree Day & Night Beauty Cream Oil Free Total Fairness, and Goree Gold 24K Beauty Cream, priced at 300 to P350 in beauty and wellness shops along downtown area in Tacloban City.

Using a Chemical XRF Analyzer to determine mercury concentration, the group found that Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene Avocado & Aloevera had 21,700 parts per million (ppm) of mercury, Goree Day & Night Beauty Cream Oil Free Total Fairness System had 22,900 ppm, and Goree Gold 24K Beauty Cream had 21,800 ppm. All these unnotified skin creams have existing public health warnings against their use and sale due to toxic mercury content.

According to the FDA, “Mercury salts in cosmetic products inhibit the formation of skin melanin which will result in lighter skin tone. Adverse health effects brought by high toxic mercury in cosmetics products include kidney damage, skin rashes, skin discoloration, and scarring.”

“Chronic use reduces the skin’s normal resistance against bacterial and fungal infections. Other effects include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy,” the advisory stated.

BAN Toxics continuously monitors and documents the illegal trade of banned and prohibited beauty products sold in the local market and online to warn the public about the dangers of toxic mercury exposure and to protect human health and the environment from mercury-added cosmetics.

Thony Dizon, Toxics Campaigner of the group revealed that “the proliferation of such prohibited beauty cosmetics in cities and provinces nationwide must end and should be addressed immediately by regulatory agencies.”

“We call the attention of the FDA in Region 8 to conduct post-marketing surveillance and enforcement action to stop the sale and use of these banned toxic products,” he added.

In April, BAN Toxics launched a video documentary titled “The Dark Side of Skin-Lightening” – a 13-minute documentary film shedding light on the hidden dangers lurking within many skin-lightening products (SLPs) due to their mercury content.

The documentary reveals that many mercury-added SLPs continue to proliferate in the local market despite being banned by the FDA. It includes market monitoring conducted by the group in both online and physical stores, showing how easy it is to buy several illicit brands such as Goree, 88 Total White, Collagen Plus, and Faiza, among others.

The documentary aims to raise public awareness, advocate for robust regulations and enforcement policies, and promote international collaboration as key measures to address the issue of mercury-added SLPs.

BAN Toxics
BAN Toxics is an environmental organization that works for the advancement of environmental justice, health, and sustainable development in the area of chemicals and wastes, with a special focus on women, children, and other marginalized sectors.