Cosmetics buyers told not to get beauty from beasts

January 16, 2002 South China Morning Post by Susan Schwartz
Health scares over mercury poisoning and mad-cow disease have prompted a warning to consumers not to use cosmetic products containing mercury or hydroquinone or ingredients derived from cattle.

The Consumer Council said although there was no evidence to link mad-cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), to cosmetics use, it was responding to a list of products recalled by the Japanese Government. Japan's first case of BSE was discovered in September, after which its Government asked cosmetics manufacturers to stop using animal-derived materials made from cows born, bred or slaughtered in countries where BSE had been confirmed.

Japanese cosmetics make up 30 per cent of the Hong Kong market. According to the Hong Kong Medical Association, there is no medical evidence to indicate BSE can be contracted through skin or mucous contact. But as a general safety practice, consumers are advised to avoid using any non-medical preparations, including cosmetic products, on wounds or areas such as the mouth, nose or eyes.

Responses from cosmetic agents and retailers in the SAR and from 83 Japanese manufacturers indicated the products on the Japanese Government's list were not exported to Hong Kong or had new formulations, the council's publicity and community relations committee vice-chairman, Larry Kwok Lam-kwong, said.

The council received 99 complaints about cosmetic products last year, mostly over poor quality and allergic reactions.

Mr Kwok cautioned consumers against using whitening products containing mercury or hydroquinone. Mercury can cause hand tremors, visual or hearing loss and kidney damage. High concentrations of hydroquinone can cause mild allergic reactions.

In Hong Kong, 16 women have been admitted to hospital this month after using Youdi beauty cream, which has high mercury levels. Another 89 women have been referred for further checks.

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