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Eczema cream found to contain over 430 times the allowed limits of arsenic: HSA


SINGAPORE: An eczema cream sold on a retail website based in Malaysia and on Carousell was found to have contained more than 430 times the allowed limits of arsenic, with health authorities warning users to see a doctor "as soon as possible".

The cream, Euzema Confidence Revival Cream, was among four products that were found to contain potent or banned ingredients, said the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) on Tuesday (Nov 21).

After using the cream for eczema for a year, a man in his 30s developed a skin reaction called purpura, where purplish red spots appear due to small bleeds under the skin.

His doctor suspected that the adverse skin reaction was caused by realgar, a mineral containing arsenic that was labelled on the cream. The doctor reported it to HSA.

The man had bought the cream from a retail website based in Malaysia and it is also sold on local e-commerce platform Carousell.

Euzema's website claimed users would be "able to beat eczema for good with this powerful natural formula", and that the cream was "steroid-free", "contained 100 per cent all-natural herbs" and that it had "no side effects".

HSA's tests showed that it contained more than 430 times the allowed limits of arsenic. The cream also contained very high levels of betamethasone – a potent steroid – and salicylic acid.

Arsenic, a toxic heavy metal, can cause skin irritations, contact dermatitis with symptoms such as skin rashes and blisters, or rashes resulting in skin peeling. Widespread, prolonged application of products containing high levels of arsenic may lead to arsenic poisoning.

Betamethasone should only be used under strict medical supervision, as it can cause serious adverse effects if used inappropriately.

"Long-term steroid use can suppress the body’s production of steroids and sudden stopping without medical supervision may cause serious withdrawal symptoms such as adrenal insufficiency leading to confusion, muscle and joint pain, low blood pressure and fits or shocks," said HSA.

Adrenal insufficiency occurs when the body is not able to produce adequate amounts of steroid hormone cortisol. This can lead to fatigue, muscle and joint pain, low blood pressure, fits or shock.

Salicylic acid is used to treat common skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis and dandruff, and could lead to dry, irritated and red skin if used in high amounts, the authority said.

HSA advised those who used to cream to see a doctor as soon as possible.



HSA also received feedback from members of the public about the sale of three weight loss products – HONEY Q Dietary Supplement Product, SLIME 7D ADVANCE Slimming Pill and FINOs.

One consumer experienced vomiting and a headache after taking FINOs.

All three products claimed to be "herbal and natural" and were sold on local e-commerce and social media platforms, including Lazada, Qoo10, Shopee and eBay. SLIME 7D ADVANCE Slimming Pill additionally claimed to have no banned substances.

"Contrary to the product claims, HSA tested and detected potent medicinal ingredients, including sibutramine, benzyl sibutramine, fluoxetine and orlistat in the product," said the authority.

Sibutramine has been banned in Singapore since 2010 due to an increased risk of heart attacks and strokes. It was previously a prescription-only medicine for weight loss.

The use of sibutramine and benzyl sibutramine may cause serious adverse effects, including high blood pressure, increased heart rate, anxiety and heart attacks.

Fluoxetine is a prescription-only medicine that should only be used under medical supervision, while orlistat is a pharmacy-only medicine that should be used under the supervision of a pharmacist or doctor.


Photos of the weight loss product FINOs. (Photos: Health Sciences Authority)

Consumers are advised to stop taking the three weight loss products immediately and consult a doctor if they feel unwell or are concerned about their health.

"There is no quick and easy way to lose weight. Weight control should be achieved through a combination of a balanced diet and appropriate exercise. If you need help managing your weight, please consult your doctor or dietitian," said HSA.

The authority also advised consumers to be wary of products that promise miraculous recovery from chronic medical conditions, or claim to "contain 100 per cent all-natural herbs/ingredients" or have no side effects.

Such products may contain undeclared ingredients that may harm your health, said HSA.

"Exercise caution when buying products from unknown or unfamiliar sources online as you cannot be certain where and how these products were made and whether they have been adulterated with harmful ingredients," it added.

"Only buy from reputable pharmacies or retailers’ websites or those with an established retail presence in Singapore.

"Adulterated products are often manufactured under poor conditions with no quality control, and different batches of the same product may contain variable amounts of ingredients and/or different types of adulterants."


HSA said it has worked with the local platform administrators to remove the affected listings. Two sellers are assisting with investigations.

The agency has also alerted its Malaysian counterpart to these products as they were labelled to be manufactured in Malaysia and sold by sellers or websites based in Malaysia.

"All sellers and suppliers must stop selling these products immediately. HSA will not hesitate to take stern enforcement actions against anyone who sells and supplies products found to be adulterated with banned and prohibited substances or potent ingredients," it said.

Sellers and suppliers are liable to prosecution and if convicted, may be jailed for up to two years, fined up to S$10,000 (US$7,490) or both.

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