SINGAPORE - The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) has advised people not to buy or use a health product labelled "TCM Recipe Licozen Ointment". This has been tested and found to contain very high levels of arsenic.
Sellers should stop the sale and distribution of the ointment immediately, the HSA said in a press release on Friday (Dec 4).
The authority was alerted to the product by a doctor, after a woman said there was "dramatic improvement" in her young child's chronic eczema shortly after applying the ointment. She had bought it from a retail store in the central part of Singapore, said the HSA.
The product was also advertised on various online platforms with the claim that it was a "superior alternative to cure skin disorders" when other medical treatments fail, said the HSA.
It added that the woman was advised to stop using the product immediately after laboratory tests revealed that it contained very high levels of arsenic.
Arsenic is a toxic heavy metal and can cause skin irritation, contact dermatitis (with symptoms such as skin rashes and blisters) or rashes resulting in skin peeling when applied externally, said the HSA.
The widespread, prolonged application and accidental ingestion of products containing high levels of arsenic can increase the chance of arsenic poisoning.
Symptoms of arsenic poisoning include vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, heart-related problems, breathing difficulties and numbness of the limbs. The risk of experiencing these harmful effects may be higher when used by young children or on broken inflamed skin, added the HSA.
People who have bought or are using the product are advised to stop using it immediately. Those who are experiencing any adverse effects or are concerned after using it should see a doctor as soon as possible.
The HSA also encouraged people to go to www.healthdangers.sg to learn more about the dangers of buying health products from dubious sources.
"Be wary of any health product promising miraculous results or which makes exaggerated claims such as 'no side effects' and '100% safe'," said the HSA, adding that people should also be wary of products that promise unexpectedly quick recovery from chronic medical conditions.
Sellers who do not stop the sale and distribution of the product immediately face a fine of up to $5,000 and up to two years' jail under the Medicines Act if convicted.
People who have any information on the sale and supply of the ointment or other illegal products can contact HSA's Enforcement Branch on 6866-3485 during office hours, Monday to Friday.