Cebu City Government Urged to Stop Illegal Trade in Mercury-Laden Cosmetics

An environmental group based in Quezon
City has appealed to the Cebu City Government to take action against vendors of
contraband cosmetics laden with mercury, a toxic chemical.

Through a press release, the EcoWaste Coalition requested the office
of Cebu Mayor Michael Rama to help the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) in
enforcing the prohibition against the sale of skin whitening cosmetics with
mercury content exceeding 1 part per million (ppm).

“We appeal to Mayor Rama to mobilize the city’s health and police inspectors in
an all-out drive to have illegal mercury-containing cosmetics removed from
store shelves,” stated Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Citing information from the World Health Organization, Lucero said that human
exposure to mercury in skin whitening products may cause “kidney damage, skin
rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s
resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.”

The group last Thursday released a report entitled “Beauty and the Risk,”
indicating the unrestrained sale of mercury-tainted skin whitening products in
50 cities across the country, including Cebu and Lapu-Lapu Cities.

Out of the 355 samples procured by the group from Baguio to Zamboanga, 25 were
obtained from Cebu and Lapu-Lapu, mostly from beauty product stores and general
merchandise stores in Colon St.  The FDA had already banned most of
these products and would be illegal to sell.

Subsequent analysis of the samples using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device detected
mercury above 1 ppm in 316 samples.  All samples from Cebu were found
laced with mercury up to 5,969 ppm.  Of the 25 samples from Cebu, 22 had
mercury above 1,000 ppm.

Among the top seven brands in terms of mercury content were:
1) Jiaoli Speckle
Dispelling and Whitening Cream, 5,969 ppm

2) Miss Beauty Magic Cream, 5,295 ppm,

3)  Shengniya
7 Day Freckle Eliminating, 5,310 ppm

4) Women of Flower Whitening and Spekle Removing A
and B Series, 4,908 ppm

5) Young Grace Age Defying Essence, 4,773 ppm  

6) S’Zitang 10 Days Whitening and Spot Day Night
Set, 4,761 ppm

7) Huayuenong 12
Days Whitening and Spekle Removing Wreckling Set, 4,669 ppm

The EcoWaste Coalition expressed optimism that the new data would prompt the
Cebu City Council into fast tracking its deliberation and approval of a
proposed ordinance authored by Councilor
Nida Cabrera to curb the illegal trade of cosmetics laced with toxic mercury in
the city.

“The proposed measure, we believe, would deter unscrupulous traders from selling
smuggled cosmetics that could put the health and safety of Cebuanos at grave
risk,” Lucero added.    

The said draft ordinance, if adopted, would prohibit the following:

“a) The manufacture, importation, marketing and promotion, distribution and sale
of cosmetics with mercury in excess of 1 ppm as set by the FDA.”

“b) The sale, wholesale or retail, of cosmetics that have not been authorized
by the FDA as required by R.A. 9711.”

“c) The sale, wholesale or retail, of cosmetics that have not complied with the
labeling requirements implemented by the FDA.”

“c) The open dumping, open burning and/or disposal of banned, recalled and/or
confiscated mercury-containing cosmetics in regular municipal solid waste.”

The ordinance would also provide for the suspension of business license or
permit of non-compliant establishments, as well as penalties and fines for