AN ENVIRONMENTAL and health organization has requested Mayor Carmelo Lazatin, Jr. to initiate law enforcement action to protect his constituents in Angeles City from being poisoned by mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics.
The Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition on Monday, July 15, wrote to Lazatin to bring an urgent public health issue to his attention: the unlawful sale of skin lightening facial creams with high levels of mercury, a toxic chemical that is not allowed in cosmetic products under the Asean Cosmetic Directive (ACD).
As part of the group’s advocacy in support of the Minamata Convention of Mercury, the EcoWaste Coalition went to Angeles City on July 14 to check if products banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to their mercury content are being sold in the city.
The Minamata Convention, which the Philippines signed in 2013, has scheduled, among other things, the global phaseout by 2020 of mercury-added cosmetics such as skin lightening creams and soaps with mercury content about 1 part per million (ppm).
The Philippines is currently developing a National Action Plan on mercury-added products that are targeted for phaseout next year.
“We managed to buy eight skin whitening creams, which exceeded the 1 ppm allowable limit for mercury as contaminant in cosmetics. The items, which were all imported, unregistered and lacking market authorization from the FDA, were procured from stores selling beauty and herbal products in Angeles City with official receipts provided,” said Thony Dizon, chemical safety campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition in his letter to Lazatin.
Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device, the group detected excessive levels of mercury in all eight samples costing P100 to P300 each. A “made in Taiwan” Yu Dan Tang freckle removing, whitening and sun block cream registered with a whopping 55,100 ppm of mercury. This product is among the mercury-laden skin lightening products banned by the FDA in 2012.
Also screening positive for mercury are Goree Beauty Cream with 23,300 ppm and Goree Day & Night Whitening Cream with 17,400 ppm. Both variants of Goree from Pakistan were banned by the FDA in 2017.
The group also found China-made Jiaoli and S’Zitang skin whitening products being sold by unscrupulous retailers in Angeles City.
“In pursuit of the general welfare provision of the Local Government Code, we request your office to take law enforcement action to stop the trade of dangerous cosmetics containing mercury in your city. Such action will protect the health and safety of your constituents and the environment,” Dizon said.
“We further request your office to please consider enacting an ordinance similar to what Quezon City adopted in 2018 that will ban the manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics in your area of responsibility,” he further suggested.
The World Health Organization has stated that “mercury-containing skin lightening products are hazardous to health.”
According to the WHO: “The main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage.”
The WHO also warned that “mercury in skin lightening products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.”