Manila Councilor Asks City Government to Go After Retailers of Illegal Mercury-Tainted Cosmetics

A Manila councilor today filed a resolution asking the City Government to take action against unscrupulous retailers of cosmetics laced with mercury, an extremely toxic chemical, to protect public health.

District II Councilor Numero “Uno” Lim made the move in response to the continued proliferation of mercury-contaminated skin whitening creams as uncovered by the EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog.

The resolution calls on the City Government to undertake immediate enforcement operations, in collaboration with the EcoWaste Coalition and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to rid the local market of mercury-tainted cosmetics.

“We need to protect unsuspecting consumers from being harmed by cosmetics spiked with mercury,” said Lim.

“Mercury in personal care products is a serious health threat, especially to our women who deserve nothing less than safe cosmetics,” he pointed out.

Citing a flyer from the World Health Organization, Lim warned that “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.”

The EcoWaste Coalition recently tested 20 samples of imported skin whitening products using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device and detected mercury in all the samples, with one sample having a whopping 72,100 parts per million (ppm) of mercury.

The maximum allowable limit for mercury in cosmetics is 1 ppm as per FDA regulation.

Out of these 20 samples, 10 were among the 50 products banned by the FDA but are still being sold in some non-compliant Chinese drug stores and health and beauty shops in the City of Manila, the resolution noted.

According to Lim’s resolution, the FDA banned 50 imported skin whitening products in 2010 and 2011 for containing excessive quantities of mercury and without the benefit of notification with the agency in direct violation of Republic Act 9711 or the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009.

The banned products “pose imminent danger or injury to the consuming public,” warned the agency.

The FDA has sought the assistance of local government units (LGUs) in identifying and apprehending importers, distributors and retailers of the dangerous goods.

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition lauded Lim’s proposal to combat trade in illegal cosmetics in the city.

“Manila’s effort to help the FDA in enforcing its directive versus mercury-laced cosmetics should be replicated by other LGUs. This will cripple the supply chain of poison cosmetics that should not be in the market in the first place,” stated Aileen Lucero, Safe Cosmetics Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.