EcoWaste Coalition Exposes Non-stop Use of Online Shopping Sites to Sell Mercury-Containing Skin Whitening Products

There is unabated sale of mercury-containing skin whitening products on online platforms. Consumers are advised to steer clear of the products.

In a statement, the Ecowaste Coalition in the Philippines cautioned that its survey has found products that have been restricted for sale, or banned locally for lacking market authorisation, including for containing mercury above the 1 part-per-million safety limit, to be blatantly sold online.

The group’s latest monitoring of Lazada and Shopee found dozens of product listings for banned cosmetics from Pakistan such as the 3 variants of Goree Beauty Cream (Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene, Goree Day & Night Beauty Cream, and Goree Gold 24K Gold Beauty Cream), Golden Pearl Beauty Cream and Parley Goldie Advance Beauty Cream. Public health warnings had been issued on the products from 2017 to 2023.

Cosmetics from Thailand – including 88 Total White Underarm Cream, Snow White Armpit Whitening Underarm Cream, and 4K Plus Whitening Night Cream – which the Philippines health authorities had banned from 2021 to 2023, are also sold.

Also found on sale were China-made Ailke, Feique Jiaoli and S’Zitang skin care cosmetics, prohibited for sale from 2010 to 2022.

Collagen Plus Vit E Day & Night Cream, reportedly smuggled from Indonesia, banned in 2017 and 2021, are likewise being sold online.

Mercury is a toxic element and even small amounts of this chemical is hazardous to human health. For mercury-containing skin lightening creams, mercury is released through usual product use with dermal contact and inhalation as common exposure routes. Repeated applications can harm the kidneys, the brain and the central nervous system, cause skin discolouration, rashes and scarring, and diminish skin resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.

The use of mercury-containing skin whitening products by pregnant women is of utmost concern as mercury is known to cross the placenta during pregnancy and accumulate in foetal tissues, affecting the developing brain and nervous system of the baby in the womb and causing neurodevelopmental disorders.

“The unethical and unlawful online sale of unauthorised mercury-containing products that claim to lighten the skin tone and treat dermal problems ranging from uneven skin tone, blotches, freckles, age spots, wrinkles to acne continues to persist,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“E-commerce platforms and concerned regulatory agencies must act with determination to put an end to such anomalous trade that is putting the health of consumers, their families and the environment at risk of mercury contamination,” she said.

“Aside from ensuring a mercury- and toxics-free shopping, we also call e-commerce sites to eliminate excessive plastic packaging to reduce plastic waste,” she added.

As for consumers, embrace your natural skin tone. Reject chemical whiteners, which perpetuate discrimination based on skin colour, the group advises.