Public warned about unsafe beauty cream

6 October 2006
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"Jin Sheng Mei" beauty cream

The Department of Health (DH) today (October 6) called on members of the public who have bought a brand of beauty product, "Jin Sheng Mei", to stop using it and contact the DH hotline 2125 1133 for health advice.

The hotline will be in operation until 8pm today and during office hours starting from October 9.

The appeal followed a report of mercury poisoning involving a 34-year-old woman who was found to have a high level of mercury in her blood when she sought medical treatment at Queen Elizabeth Hospital for ankle swelling and facial puffiness on September 14 this year.

The woman claimed that she had used "Jin Sheng Mei" and two other beauty products without labels (a white cream in a colourless container with beige cap and a yellow cream in a colourless container with a blue cap), which she said were obtained from a friend in Shenzhen earlier this year.

Chemical analysis of the three products obtained from the woman by the Toxicology Reference Laboratory of the Hospital Authority revealed that the mercury content of "Jin Sheng Mei" is 74810 parts per million (ppm), and the mercury contents of the other two are 31.5ppm and 38040ppm respectively.

The tolerable limit of mercury content stipulated in the "Hygienic Standards for Cosmetics" of the National Standard of People's republic of China is 1 ppm.

According to a European Commission Directive relating to cosmetic products, mercury is listed as a substance that must not form part of the composition of cosmetic products. The presence of traces of these substances is allowed provided that such presence is technically unavoidable in good manufacturing practice.

A DH spokesman said the department had an effective surveillance mechanism for heavy metal poisoning. There is no other report of mercury poisoning associated with beauty cream in 2006.

Exposure to mercury can have harmful effects especially to the nervous system and kidney. Symptoms may include nervousness, irritability, tremors, memory problems and deterioration in hearing, vision or taste. Kidney damage can give rise to edema, particularly in the ankles and legs. It can also pass from the mother to the foetus resulting in impaired brain development.

The DH has referred the case to the Customs and Excise Department (C&ED), which will investigate whether the concerned products in question are on sale in Hong Kong.

Under the Consumer Goods Safety Ordinance, it is an offence to supply, manufacture or import into Hong Kong consumer goods unless the goods comply with the general safety requirement for consumer goods.

The maximum penalty for the offence is a fine of $100,000 and imprisonment for one year on first conviction, and $500,000 and two years' imprisonment on a subsequent conviction.

For enquiries and complaints regarding unsafe consumer goods, consumers can contact the Consumer Protection and Prosecution Bureau, Customs and Excise Department, 11/F, North Point Government Office, 333 Java Road, North Point or call the Customs hotline at 2545 6182.

Reprinted from HKSAR Government web page:
http://www.info.gov.hk/gia/general/200610/06/P200610060218.htm