EcoGroups Warn Public Against Toxic Cosmetics

Quezon City. With days to go before Valentine’s Day, toxics and pollution watchdog EcoWaste Coalition, reminded consumers to love their health by passing up on toxic cosmetics.

To raise the concern of toxic chemicals found in beauty and cosmetic products, members of the EcoWaste Coalition led by Buklod Tao and Sagip Pasig Movement held a creative event in front of the Philippine Heart Center. They wore creative headgears depicting various cosmetic products such as lipstick, whitening lotion and make-up, and demanded that the use of toxic chemicals such as lead and mercury in these products be eliminated.

Lately, Chinese beauty and slimming products has been under tight watch as the Food and Drugs Administration discovered that they contain dangerously high levels of deleterious substances such as mercury and steroids. In an advisory the FDA issued last February 9, it warned against buying Zhen de Shou Fat Loss Capsule and Zhen de Shou Fat Loss Tea found to contain amphetamine, sibutramine or steroids, either singly or in combination with each other; and reiterated a warning it issued last month against three mercury-tainted cosmetic products like Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, Jiaoli Hulchusu Special Cut Genuine and Jiaoli 2+17 Days Clearing Facial Spots Suit.

The said event was part of the group’s “AlertToxic Day” campaign that aims to inform the public of dangerous chemicals found in everyday products. EcoWaste demanded the government to enact and enforce an appropriate labeling policy requiring manufacturers to disclose the health effects of every ingredient in their products.

“As in the case of most products, manufacturers leave us customers in the dark regarding the health hazards of the things they sell. As consumers we must assert our paramount right to know and right to be healthy vis-à-vis the commodified right to be beautiful,” asserts Velvet Roxas, Deputy Executive Director of Arugaan, a women and children’s health group.

Republic Act 7394, also known as, Consumer Protection Act of 1992 ensures that consumers have access to safe cosmetics and more information about the articles available, and are protected against unreasonable risks of injury associated with their use. It compels the appropriate government agency to declare a consumer product to be imminently injurious, unsafe or dangerous, and order is immediate recall, ban or seizure from public sale or distribution whenever the departments find, by their own initiative or by petition of a consumer, that a consumer product is found to be injurious, unsafe or dangerous.

Studies of private consumer-interest groups in the United States and Canada, for years now, have shown that beauty and personal care products teem with hazardous toxins like lead and mercury. A recent investigation by the US Food and Drug Administration released in September 2009 revealed that lead was found in lipstick at alarming levels. Albeit withholding the brands, FDA found lead in all 20 lipsticks it tested, at levels ranging from 0.09 parts per million [ppm] to 3.06 ppm. Lead builds up in the body over time and, unfortunately, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no safe level of lead in the human body.

Unfortunately, such publicly beneficial study has yet to be effected in the Philippines.

Lead, one of the oldest known poisons, is a neurotoxin that adversely affect young and old alike. It is toxic to many organs and tissues including the heart, bones, intestines, kidneys, and reproductive and nervous systems. Lead exposure has been associated with high blood pressure, and studies have also found connections between lead exposure and coronary heart disease, and heart rate variability.

“It’s a huge contradiction for beauty products have an ugly side,” laments Cathy Untalan, Executive Director of Miss Earth Foundation. “Harmful cosmetics should be banned and their manufacturers should be made liable for all their detrimental health effects,” she adds.

EcoWaste cited the legislative ban on mercury in the State of Minnesota as an example. In 2007, Minnesota spear-headed the banning of mercury, also a neurotoxin, in mascara, eye liners and skin-lightening creams. When applied, mercury is readily absorbed through the skin into the bloodstream.

“When we consider mercury along with steroids, glutathione, salicylic acid and hydroquinone – ingredients in skin cosmetics under fire in the media as of late, then we will begin to see the real price of superficial beauty. I hope we don’t sacrifice health in the name of vanity, as some deceitful manufacturers would want us to,” says Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition.Mercury can retard brain development in children and fetuses, which are most vulnerable to the metal’s toxic effects. But it can also cause neurological symptoms in adults. Further, it is also known to effect damage to the brain, kidney, and lungs. Direct links to tachycardia [persistently faster-than-normal heart beat] and hypertension [high blood pressure] have also been established.