Several environmental protection organizations co-announced a report Tuesday saying 23 percent of skin whitening cosmetics in 10 Chinese cities they tracked contain hazardous metal mercury higher than acceptable limits, with most of the products targeting low-income consumers.
A total of 477 items of whitening products and freckle removal cream were detected by the Beijing-based environmental protection organization Green Beagle and a global toxics-free network IPEN over the past two months.
All the products were purchased by the NGOs from wholesale markets, supermarkets and department stores in 10 cities.
"These problematic brands could be easily purchased and are popular among local consumers," Wang Qiuxia, a staff member with Green Beagle said at the press conference Tuesday.
A skin whitening cosmetic named Tongrentang Yisheng whitening and freckle removal cream, purchased in a Beijing wholesale market, contains 9,755 times the acceptable limit of mercury.
A publicity employee with Tongrentang, a renowned traditional Chinese medicine brand, told the Global Times Tuesday that it "has never produced such cream and someone must have counterfeited the brand."
"Exposure to mercury can have serious health consequences," Hao Fengtong, a chief physician of Occupational Diseases and Poisoning Medicine Department with Beijing Chaoyang Hospital, told the Global Times Tuesday.
"It can damage the kidneys and the nervous system, and interfere with the health of unborn children," Hao said.
Hao said the amount of female patients suffering from mercury poisoning his department receives has seen an upward trend in recent years.
Yuchun Hanfang, a brand that contains 7,318 times more than the acceptable limit of mercury is sold on Jialan Cosmetics store from Tmall, one of the country's largest B2C online sales platforms that pledge to sell certified products.
An employee with the shop told the Global Times "this product is from a certified producer in Shanghai."
"Authorities have to take more measures as soon as possible," Hao said, suggesting that consumers buy cosmetics with qualified brands in formal stores