Group Seeks Industry Compliance to Mercury Prohibition in Cosmetics under the Minamata Convention

 Four banned skin whitening cosmetics containing toxic mercury still on sale in Chinese drug stores.

Two unnotified skin whitening cosmetics on sale in the market.

Toxic mercury in some skin lightening products is a
problem that will not simply go away.
“Despite repeated public health warnings by the
authorities since 2010, we still find mercury-laced skin whitening creams in
the market,” noted Thony Dizon, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition’s Project
“Cosmetic manufacturers, for sure, are aware of the
prohibition on mercury in cosmetic formulations, which even got a global boost
when the Minamata Convention on Mercury was signed in 2013,” he stated.
“We urge them and their local importers, distributors and
dealers to stop the illegal trade in mercury-containing cosmetics now and for
the last time, and support the early implementation of the mercury treaty,” he
“The treaty targets, among other things, the phase out of
mercury in products such as skin lightening cosmetics with mercury above one
part per million (ppm),”  he added.
“We likewise urge the Bureau of Customs to take stern
measures to halt the entry of contraband cosmetics in the country’s ports,” he
further said.
As part of the EcoWaste Coalition’s campaign to inform
the public about the dangers of mercury and to support the Philippine
ratification of the Minamata Convention, the group conducted yet another
sampling of skin whitening cosmetics in the marketplace.
Last Sunday, the group bought six brands of skin
whitening cosmetics imported from China and Taiwan for P60 to P150 each from
mostly Chinese drug stores in Divisoria, Manila.
The products were subsequently screened for mercury using
a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer.
Four of the samples showed high concentrations of mercury
exceeding the one ppm limit under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.  Mercury and its compounds must not form part
of the composition of cosmetic products, according to the directive.
Yu Dan Tang Specific Eliminating Freckle Spot and Double
Whitening Sun Block Cream with Ginseng and Green Cucumber was found to contain
the highest amount of mercury at 33,700 ppm.
Also found contaminated with toxic mercury were Jiaoli
Miraculous Cream with 2,673 ppm, 
S’Zitang 10-Day Whitening and Spot Day and Night Set with 2,505 ppm, and
Jiachuntang Ban Gan Jing Qu Ban Shuang with 1,898 ppm.
These products were among the over 135 skin lightening
cosmetics banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for containing
mercury since 2010. Jiachuntang was the most recent to be banned by the agency
in August 2016.
Eighty of these banned items were among those discovered
by the EcoWaste Coalition during its periodic test buys in Metro Manila and
other urban hubs across the country.
The other two products (Himalayan Goji Whitening Cream
and White Glow Whitening Day and Night Cream) were found negative for mercury,
but have no cosmetic product notifications from the FDA and should not be
offered for sale.
According to the FDA, “there have been cases of adverse
health effects brought about by highly toxic mercury in cosmetic products, such
as kidney damage, skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring.”
“Chronic use (of mercury-containing skin cosmetics)
reduces the skin’s normal resistance against bacterial and fungal infections.
Other effects include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral
neuropathy,” the FDA said.
“The transfer of mercury to fetuses of pregnant women may
manifest as neurodevelopment deficits later in life,” it further warned.