Health Ministry to Halt Sale of Toxic Skin-Whitening Cream

The Ministry of Health yesterday sent officials to enforce an order for vendors at Phnom Penh’s Olympic Market to cease selling a skin-whitening cream that is believed to be toxic and is suspected in the deaths of two people and the sickening of a third.

Chuo Yinsim, secretary of state at the Ministry of Health, said the ban would be enforced nationwide de­spite the ministry not yet knowing if it was really the cream that caused the death of a young wom­an in Kompong Speu prov­ince last month and another wom­an last year.

“We don’t have the equipment to examine a cosmetic cream. We only have equipment to examine medicine,” Mr Yinsim said, ad­ding that samples of the cream will be sent to Thailand or Singa­pore “someday” for testing, but he would not give an exact timeline.

“It is still selling on the markets,” Mr Yinsim said, adding that despite not having analyzed the cream, Cao Cap is still dangerous.

“It can make the user die if they use too much on their body,” he said.

This would not be the Ministry of Health’s first attempt to stop the sale of the Cao Cap brand cream.

In March 2010, 23-year-old Chuon Sovan from Banteay Mean­­chey province died from overusing the cream. After the incident, the ministry announced that the product would be re­moved from shops and banned from being imported.                         Cao Cap is also blamed for the death of Mab Siek, 21, on Sept 16 after she used large amounts in preparation for her wedding in Kompong Speu province’s Oral district. Her sister, Mab Srey Oun, 19, used it as well, and was hospitalized with respiratory problems.

The shop owner, Lua Srey Oun, 18, who sold the cream to the sisters, was arrested the day of Ms Siek’s death and charged with intentional murder on Sept 18, said Khlaut Pich, president of the Kompong Speu Provincial Court. He added that the cream was immediately sent to the ministry for testing, but he still has not received results.

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