Manila City Council Presses Action vs Mercury-Laden Cosmetics

The City Council of Manila last Tuesday unanimously adopted a resolution to rid the market of health-damaging cosmetics containing mercury, an extremely toxic chemical.

At the instigation of Councilor Numero “Uno” Lim and with support from presiding officer Vice Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, the City Council agreed to urge the City Department of Health “to vigorously assist the Food and Drug Administration in the strict enforcement of the ban on mercury-tainted cosmetics.”

The City Council also resolved to request key government agencies such as the Department of Health, Food and Drug Administration, National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police to coordinate toward an effective regulation of health products, including cosmetics, under R.A. 9711 or the Food and Drug Administration of 2009.

“As the national capital and the show window of the nation in terms of law enforcement and the maintenance of public health and safety,the City of Manila must engage in a massive campaign to banish these deadly and lethal products from all outlets,” the resolution stated.

This timely action by the City Council immediately drew cheers from the EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog.

“We applaud Vice Mayor Moreno, Councilor Lim and other members of the City Council for this urgent public health action to ensure consumer safety from hazardous products,” said Aileen Lucero, Safe Cosmetics Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The City Council should follow this up with an ordinance that will once and for all make the sale of mercury-laden cosmetics a thing of the past,” she added.

Lucero suggested that Manila’s action should be replicated by other local government units.

“This will cripple the supply chain of poison cosmetics that should not be in the market in the first place,” she stated.

The FDA in 2010 and 2011 banned a total of 50 skin whitening products for containing mercury above the 1 part per million (ppm) limit that “pose imminent danger or injury to the consuming public.”

However, test buys conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition indicate that some of the banned items are still being sold by unscrupulous traders, including non-compliant health and beauty shops and Chinese drug stores.

On February 1, the group screened 20 samples of skin whitening products using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer and found mercury in all the samples, with one item loaded with 72,100 ppm of mercury.

According to the World Health Organization, “mercury in skin lightening products can damage the kidney and also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.”