Updated January. 18, 2013 02:26
A Korean consumer watchdog has found high levels of mercury in imported whitening cosmetics sold on online shopping malls and imported product shops in large markets in Korea.
The levels were 15,000 times higher than the permissible level. Two kinds of imported teeth whitening products also had peroxide exceeding permissible limits.
The Korea Consumer Agency on Thursday said three of 21 whitening cosmetics imported and sold in Korea had 120 to 15,000 times the legally permissible level of mercury, or one part per million or lower.
Mercury was widely used to produce whitening products because it blocks melanin pigments, but is now banned for cosmetic use because of high toxicity.
According to the agency, 15,698 ppm of mercury was found in a cream called Vision and 120 to 5,212 ppm found in the cream Qu Ban Gao, both of which are made in China. Melanin Treatment, which had no country of origin listed, had 574 ppm of mercury.
These products are being sold for low prices ranging from 10,000 (9.46 U.S. dollars) to 20,000 won (18.92 dollars) at Namdaemun Market in Seoul and Kukje Market in Busan.
Just four of 18 functional cosmetics had the right chemical information as required. Cosmetic products of 10 milliliters or more must have a label that shows they are functional cosmetics on the package.
Ha Jeong-cheol, head of the food and drug safety team at the agency, said, The Korea Food and Drug Administration should exercise stronger control over products that advertise their whitening functions without identify themselves as `functional cosmetics.`
Two whitening products imported from China and the U.S. exceeded the legal limit of peroxide of 3 percent or lower. Whitening Pen, made by an unknown manufacturer in China, had 10.3 percent peroxide and Listerine Whitening Pen produced by Johnson & Johnson had 4.4 percent. The bleaching chemical is a key ingredient of whitening products but can cause side effects if in excess of 10 percent.
The European Union bans teeth whitening products for those under age 18, but six teeth whiteners in Korea had a different age standard for use, Ha said, adding, The system needs to be fixed as soon as possible.