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Medsafe Warning On Mercury And Lead In Skin Whitening Products

Press Release – Ministry of Health

Medsafe is issuing a warning not to use Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene, Goree Day and Night Beauty Cream Oil Free, and Golden Pearl Beauty Cream– statement under section 98 of the Medicines Act 1981.

Medsafe is warning the public about mercury and lead in skin whitening (also known as lightening) creams after a case of possible mercury poisoning was reported in the Upper North Island.

The sample of the product used by the patient was tested and found to have 24900 parts per million of mercury. Two other brands of similar products that were tested were also found to contain high levels of mercury and of lead, as did a second sample of the original product tested.

This is in breach of international conventions limiting mercury in cosmetic products to 1 part per million.

Medsafe cautions that anyone purchasing similar products either here or from the internet should take particular care as the presence of mercury is often not disclosed, as is the case with this product, but it is often included as an added ingredient.

The Director-General issued a qualified privileged statement which is published on the Medsafe website and has been issued with the support of the Ministry for the Environment:

Medsafe is issuing a warning not to use Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene, Goree Day and Night Beauty Cream Oil Free, and Golden Pearl Beauty Cream– statement under section 98 of the Medicines Act 1981

https://www.medsafe.govt.nz/safety/Alerts/skin-whitening-cream.asp

Background:

What are the signs and symptoms of mercury poisoning?

Mercury is a dangerous chemical and although naturally present in the environment, it is rare. The signs and symptoms of mercury poisoning vary widely depending on the route of absorption and period of exposure but include toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and on the lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes. It can also affect the development of unborn babies.

More information is available at: https://www.health.govt.nz/system/files/documents/publications/environmental-case-management-mercury-exposed-persons-jul21.pdf

What are the signs and symptoms of lead poisoning?

A variety of symptoms can be attributed to lead poisoning depending on the level of exposure and the age of the person involved. Lead poisoning may affect neurological development in children, and affect the gastrointestinal and nervous systems and have other effects in adults.

More information is available at: https://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases-and-illnesses/lead-poisoning

What are the environmental concerns?

The mercury in these products may end up in wastewater, from where it can enter other waterways and then the food chain through fish.

What is being done about mercury in the environment?

These risks mean that many countries are working to reduce the use of mercury and to limit its release into the environment. Information on the work being done by the Ministry for the Environment to ratify the Minamata Convention on Mercury for New Zealand is published at Minamata Convention on Mercury | Ministry for the Environment

What has been done about product in the NZ market?

Along with the public warning, published today on Medsafe’s website, Medsafe has seized a quantity of skin whitening creams containing mercury from a trader in Auckland. However, other traders may also have imported and sold these products, and individuals may also have personally imported product. The alert is published to inform those using the product about the associated health risks and to inform traders of the issue.

If I have product, what should I do?

Return the products to the place that you bought them if possible, or contact your local landfill or Council to find out how you can safely dispose of them.

If I have used the product and don’t feel well, what should I do?

Anyone who has suffered any adverse effects from using these products should contact their local healthcare professional for advice and advise that they have been using this product and that it contains high levels of mercury and possibly high levels of lead.

How much mercury and lead may be in the products?

Different samples of the same products returned differing amounts of mercury and lead, which indicates there is little quality control over the manufacture. The levels of mercury in samples tested varied from 12,200ppm to 24,900ppm. The levels of lead in samples tested varied from less than 0.1ppm to 17,200ppm.

Has any action been taken anywhere else?

Medsafe is aware that at least one overseas regulator has previously produced an alert that this product is adulterated with mercury. See: http://www.moh.gov.bn/lists/latest%20news/newdispform.aspx?id=162

Why is Medsafe taking this action?

Medsafe considers that these products are medicines based on the intended purpose of the products and the mode of action by which this purpose is achieved, and that they would be prescription medicines based on the amount of mercury (and lead) present. The products are unsafe and should not be available to the public.

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