Advocacy Cosmetics Health and Safety Toxic Products

Baguio City Council’s Move to Ban Mercury-Laden Skin Whitening Creams Gets Thumbs Up from Toxics Watchdog Group

8 September 2019, Quezon City. The ongoing effort by the Baguio City Council to enact an ordinance banning mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics got a thumbs up from a toxics watchdog group.

The Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition lauded the successful first public hearing last September 4 for the proposed measure that was filed by Vice Mayor Faustino Olowan after being certified as “urgent” by Mayor Benjamin Magalong last July 18.

Councilor Philian Weygan–Allan, Chairperson of the Committee on Market, Trade, Commerce and Agriculture, presided over the public hearing that brought together stakeholders from the regional offices of the Departments of Health, Environment and Natural Resources, and Trade and Industry, as well as representatives from the private sector, including business establishments and shopping malls.

In an e-mail sent to the EcoWaste Coalition on September 5, Councilor Allan said “we all agreed that we need to pass the ordinance and we need more advocates” as she thanked the group for its “work and commitment” that brought the matter to the attention of the city authorities.

“We are pleased with the progress made so far by the City Council to legislate an ordinance that will soon make the illegal trade of mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics in Baguio City a thing of the past,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The anticipated approval and enforcement of the ordinance will serve as Baguio City’s contribution to the looming global phase-out by 2020 of skin whitening cosmetics with mercury content above one part per million (ppm),” he pointed out.

Dizon explained that the Minamata Convention of Mercury, which the Philippine government signed on October 10, 2013, listed cosmetics such as skin lightening soaps and creams containing mercury above 1 ppm among the mercury-added products (MAPs) to be phased out by 2020.

In this connection, the DENR, with inputs from public and private sector stakeholders and with support from the United Nations Industrial Development Organization and the Swiss Government, has developed a “National Action Plan (NAP) for the Phase-Out of MAPs and the Management of the Associated Mercury-Containing Wastes.”

If approved, the proposed Baguio City ordinance will prohibit and penalize the “manufacture, importation, marketing and promotion, distribution and sale of cosmetics with mercury content in excess of 1 ppm.

It will also prohibit the “sale, wholesale or retail, (of cosmetics) that have not been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or have not complied with labeling requirements as required by the FDA. “

Lastly, the ordinance will further prohibit the “open dumping or open burning or disposal of banned/recalled and/or confiscated mercury-containing cosmetics along with regular city solid waste.”

Mercury, a highly toxic chemical, “is a potent bio-accumulating and bio-magnifying neurotoxin that can cause neurological damage affecting behavior and cognitive facilities, mental disorder, infertility, kidney damage, and respiratory failure,” according to the NAP.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has 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.”