Illegal mercury-added skin lighteners still sold in Koronadal City despite government bans


Environmental watchdog group BAN Toxics revealed the proliferation of illegal skin lightening creams containing mercury in Koronadal City, South Cotabato through a test buy operation conducted by the organization on Sunday, April 17.

The operation identified two skin lightening products that, according to the 2018 ZMWG report, exceeded the allowable mercury content of 1 part per million (ppm). Products found in the area were Goree Beauty Cream (with Lycopene) and C Collagen Plus Vit E Cream, which appeared to have mercury levels of 16,353 ppm, and 7,111 ppm, respectively.

The mercury content of the creams listed above have been analyzed by the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute (PNRI) and further verified by the Quality Assurance & Control Systems Laboratory in Greece using Hydride Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy (HAAS).

The Food and Drug Administration already issued an advisory banning the sale of the mercury-added products found during the test buy operation.

  1. FDA Advisory No. 2017-289 for Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene
  2. FDA Advisory No. 2021-0646 for C Collagen Plus Vit E Day and Night Cream

Mercury is a toxic chemical with negative effects on both human health and the environment and is listed by the World Health Organization as one of their top chemicals of major health concern. Exposure to mercury may cause harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems and may also be fatal. Primary sources of human exposure to mercury are from dental amalgams, mercury-containing medical measuring devices, and gold mining activities.

The Philippines ratified the Minamata Convention on Mercury on July 8, 2020, and attended the Conference of Parties as a party to the convention last March 21-25, 2022 in Bali, Indonesia. Sale of mercury-added products is punishable by law according to the Chemical Control Order for Mercury and Mercury Compounds – DENR Administrative Order 2019-20 (CCO-DAO 2019-20).

Between 2017 to 2022, Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG), an international coalition of public interest environmental and health non-governmental organizations, of which BAN Toxics is a part of, tested 271 skin lightening creams from 17 sampling countries. 129 products exceeded the allowable limit of 1 ppm. Research released by the group in March 2022 showed that mercury-laced skin creams are still available for purchase in online marketplaces in the Philippines.

“Filipinos are being exposed to harm because mercury-added products are still widely available for purchase. Policies and implementation gaps must be addressed as soon as possible to prevent these mercury-laced skin lightening products from poisoning clueless individuals who buy these toxic creams,” says Reynaldo San Juan Jr., executive director of BAN Toxics.

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