The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition warned consumers against the purchase and consumption of mercury-tainted skincare cosmetics from Thailand that are being sold in online shopping platforms and in some physical stores.
The warning was issued after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Thailand confirmed that almost all of the 14 facial and underarm whitening creams found adulterated with mercury by the EcoWaste Coalition were unlicensed and with no notification number.
At the same time, the EcoWaste Coalition urged online shopping platforms, online dealers and retail stores to take their cue from FDA Thailand and stop the sale of these unauthorized mercury-laced cosmetics in the interest of protecting the public from mercury exposure and poisoning.
Last Monday, women leaders of the EcoWaste Coalition, Ecological Alert and Recovery-Thailand (EARTH), Foundation for Consumers-Thailand (FFC), and the International Pollutants Elimination Network – Southeast and East Asia (IPEN-SEA) delivered a joint letter to FDA Thailand urging it to take immediate action against the illegal production and export of cosmetics laden with mercury.
In response, FDA Thailand conducted a speedy investigation to check on the notification status of the 14 cosmetic products reported to contain mercury. According to a press release issued by FDA Thailand, 13 of the 14 reported adulterated cosmetics are not notified with the agency and only one has a notification number.
“If it is found that there is an offense or smuggling of prohibited substances, legal action will be taken and the result of analysis will be announced immediately. As for the illegal cosmetics, the FDA will coordinate with the police to investigate the source of production and take further legal action,” said pharmacist Weerachai Nalawachai, Deputy Secretary-General of FDA Thailand.
“We welcome the swift response of FDA Thailand to the urgent letter we submitted together with our NGO partners,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition. “Those behind this unlawful trade of mercury-added cosmetics, including online sellers, should take their cue from the Thai health authorities and stop their sale at once to safeguard public health.”
“We call upon the agency to crack down hard on the makers and traders of these toxic cosmetics, which pose serious health threats, especially to women of child-bearing age and children,” said Penchom Saetang, Executive Director, EARTH. “Additionally, we urge FDA Thailand to work on making the ASEAN Post-Marketing Alert System or PMAS and the information in it more widely known to the public. The consumers would then be on alert for toxic products, at the same time they can help the government sector monitor non-compliant producers.”
As parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury and as members of the ASEAN Cosmetic Committee (ACC) and the ASEAN Cosmetic Scientific Body (ACSB), the governments of both the Philippines and Thailand have the responsibility to enforce compliance to the global and regional ban on mercury in cosmetics such as skin lightening products, the groups said.
Among the Thai cosmetics found adulterated with mercury by the EcoWaste Coalition were Lady Gold Seaweed Gluta/Super Gluta Brightening, five variants of Dr. Yanhee, two variants of Dr. Wuttisak, Meyyong Seaweeds Super Whitening, Polla Gold Super White Perfects, White Nano, 88 Whitening Night Cream, 88 Total White Underarm Cream, and Snow White Armpit Whitening Underarm Cream.
Based on the X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) screening conducted by the group, the above products contained mercury ranging from 2,486 ppm to 44,540 parts per million (ppm), way above the one ppm limit under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive (ACD) and Minamata Convention on Mercury.
Last February 2022, the Ministry of Public Health issued a notification updating the list of prohibited and restricted substances for use in cosmetic products under its Cosmetics Act BE 2558 (2015), The said notification reiterated that mercury and its compounds in finished cosmetic products shall be less than one ppm without exception.