KUALA LUMPUR: HEALTH authorities have warned against the use of injectable skin-whitening products that contain glutathione — a chemical used in cancer treatment.
Expressing concern over the current trend in the cosmetics and beauty industry, where glutathione is the ingredient of choice, they cautioned that unregulated use of the chemical can pose serious health risks, and to a certain extent, death.
Doctors said the abuse of glutathione, commonly prescribed to cancer patients to help them cope with the side effects of chemotherapy, has been linked to several fatal skin disorders in many countries.
Glutathione is a substance produced naturally by the liver, which can also be found in fruits, vegetables and meat.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) told the New Straits Times Special Probes Team that the public should refrain from skin-lightening injections as they pose significant safety risks.
The Philippines FDA said the alarming increase in the unapproved use of glutathione administered intravenously as a skin-whitening agent has resulted in several serious health cases.
Hospital Kuala Lumpur dermatologist Dr Azura Mohd Affandi also cautioned against using the chemical, as improper and unsafe injection practices can lead to communicable diseases.
“Those who administer these injections could be beauticians who are not trained in medical practice.
“Worse still, the equipment used may not even be properly sterilised and can cause bacterial infections, hepatitis and even HIV.”
She added that another major concern with the haphazard administration of glutathione into the body via injections is the creation of air embolism, where air bubbles enter the veins or arteries, causing a blockage that leads to shortness of breath, or worse, death.
Sustained injections of glutathione into the body, she said, can also cause the liver to stop producing the substance naturally.