Mercury-laced skin care sold online allegedly made in Philippines

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Mercury-laced skin care sold online allegedly made in Philippines
Two environmental health groups have alerted consumers to the presence of mercury in skin care sold on Indonesian e-commerce platforms, which they believe originated in the Philippines.

Balifokus and the EcoWaste Coalition, groups based in Indonesia and the Philippines respectively, found the mercury-tainted product sold at popular websites Tokopedia and Bukalapak.

According to the groups, the RDL Whitening Treatment Day and Night Cream was found to contain mercury above the one part per million (ppm) limit under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.

Products not approved by FDA

Mercury was detected on samples of RDL Whitening Treatment Day and Night Creams bought online by Balifokus and subsequently analysed by the EcoWaste Coalition using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device. The group found that the night cream in particular contained 3,149 ppm and 3,615 ppm of mercury.

On the labels, both the RDL Whitening Treatment Day and Night Creams was manufactured in Davao City, Philippines by RDL Cosmetic Laboratory, Inc.

The EcoWaste Coalition said that they received notice from the FDA Center for Cosmetics Regulation and Research (CCRR) that the product in question has no existing or valid product notification, nor a pending application.

The EcoWaste Coalition highlighted that RDL Cosmetic Laboratory should not be confused with RDL Pharmaceutical Laboratory, a legitimate company that has valid FDA approval for their cosmetic products sold in the market.

Groups ask for support

Thony Dizon, chemical safety campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition, said that the groups have alerted the relevant authorities about the products. “We have duly alerted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the online sale of this product in Indonesia that is purportedly made in Davao City.”

Krishna Bayumutri toxics program manager of Balifokus, strongly recommended that the National Agency of Drug and Food Control (BPOM) should ban this product from being sold in Indonesia immediately.

Dizon adde:, “Our health and customs authorities should act decisively to stop the proliferation of this product that poses mercury exposure risk, especially to Indonesian women.”

However, Zaki said that e-commerce companies should be proactive in taking the tainted products down.

“Considering the lack of enforcement in Indonesia of regulations banning the online sale of dangerous or illegal products, Bukalapak, Tokopedia and other e-commerce platforms should conduct a strict filtering of such products being sold by third-party sellers to safeguard online shoppers.”

Deadline approaching

The EcoWaste Coalition further investigated into mercury-laced skin care in the Philippines and found 15 products contaminated with mercury.

The products, which costs around $1 to $5 dollars were purchased from local stores selling cosmetics, herbal supplements and Chinese medicines in a number of cities in the Philippines, including Manila City and Quezon City.

The EcoWaste Coalition pointed out that despite regulatory efforts stop the sale of these products, the uninterrupted marketing has continued to promote them to consumers.

“These products are damaging our people’s health, especially the health of our women who use such products to lighten their skin color, get rid of dark spots or remove freckles.  Governments must have the political will to wipe these toxic cosmetics off the face of the earth,”​ said Dizon.

According to Dizon, the Filipino government has yet to endrose the Minamata Convention on Mercury, an international treaty that aims to protect humans from the debilitating effects of mercury. The treaty requires the phase-out of cosmetics with mercury above 1 ppm by year 2020.

“The 2020 phase-out deadline for mercury-laced skin lightening products is fast approaching, and we still find these smuggled products in store shelves. Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, for example, is still up for sale despite being banned by the FDA in 2010.”

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