An X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device is used to detect mercury levels in products.

EcoWaste Coalition is urging consumers to discontinue the use of mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics after a Californian woman fell into a coma due to mercury poisoning.

In a statement sent Monday, the non-profit watchdog group has again cautioned consumers against using unregistered skin lightening cosmetics contaminated with mercury, a highly toxic chemical.

The EcoWaste Coalition reminded members of the public to shun such skin whitening products to prevent mercury poisoning that can harm the brain, kidneys, skin, and other organs and systems of the human body.

These products have been banned in 2017 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to their mercury content.

“We urge consumers to steer clear of products promising fairer and flawless skin that lack market authorization from health authorities and whose quality and safety cannot be assured,” said Thony Dizon, the coalition’s chemical safety campaigner.

“The application of such products onto the skin may, in fact, result to skin discoloration, rashes, and scarring and to other health issues linked to mercury poisoning,” he added.

The group warned in the statement that mercury-added skin whitening cosmetics proliferate in the domestic market citing the continued illegal sale, offline and online, of Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene and Goree Day and Night Whitening Cream despite being banned in 2017 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to their mercury content.

The group on Friday, September 13, managed to buy the proscribed “made in Pakistan” Goree products at Victory Lacson Underpass in Quiapo, Manila.  Subsequent screening using X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device detected mercury at 21,100 and 25, 300 parts per million (ppm) in the two products, way in excess of the allowable limit of 1 ppm.

The group on Saturday saw more retailers of beauty and herbal products at Baclaran Terminal Plaza Mall in Pasay City selling the banned Goree products and other prohibited mercury-contaminated skin whitening products such Golden Pearl Beauty Cream and Collagen Plus Vit E Day & Night Cream.

The latest appeal from the EcoWaste Coalition followed a report of a 47-year old woman from Sacramento, California, USA who fell into a coma for weeks after using a skincare product that has been adulterated with methylmercury, a very poisonous form of mercury.

As announced by the Sacramento County Public Health Services last September 9, “the woman obtained the skin cream through an informal network that imported the cream from Mexico. This type of cream is used by consumers as a skin lightener and to remove spots and wrinkles.”

It said that “methylmercury can enter the nervous system and can also cause severe illness among household contacts, especially in pregnant and breastfeeding women and children.”

Signs and symptoms of mercury poisoning include the following: difficulty concentrating, memory loss, nervousness, irritability, anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches, weight loss, fatigue,  tremors, and numbness or tingling in hands, feet, or around the lips.

Over the last nine years, over 60 cases of mercury poisoning linked to the use of foreign brand, unlabeled, and/or homemade skin creams have been documented in California.

“The mercury poisoning tragedy that befell the unidentified Californian woman should stir Filipino consumers of unregistered skin whitening cosmetics into exercising extreme caution, including stopping the purchase and use of such products, to avoid mercury exposure risk,” the EcoWaste Coalition said in the statement.