12 July 2019, Baguio City/Quezon City. A non-government environmental and health watchdog group has notified the Baguio City government about the unlawful sale at the Central Business District of smuggled cosmetics containing hazardous chemicals such as mercury and lead.
Through a letter e-mailed and couriered to Mayor Benjamin Magalong, the Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition informed the authorities that it managed to buy from various retailers 15 skin whitening creams laden with mercury, a highly toxic chemical that is forbidden as ingredient in cosmetic product formulations.
“As part of our continuing advocacy in support of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which, among other things, has set a 2020 phase-out of cosmetics with mercury content above 1 part per million (ppm), the EcoWaste Coalition conducted yet another test buy of such products that are being sold in Baguio City,” wrote Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner.
The items, which were all imported, unregistered and lacking market authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), were procured from beauty and health product stores at Baguio Center Mall and the Maharlika Livelihood Complex and from general merchandise stores located at Magsaysay Ave. and Rajah Soliman St.
Mercury ranging from 970 to 23,700 parts per million (ppm) were detected in skin whitening products bearing the names Goree, Jiaoli and S’Zitang that the FDA had already banned due to their mercury content.
As confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO), “mercury-containing skin lightening products are hazardous to health.”
According to the WHO: “The main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage. Mercury in skin lightening products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.”
“In pursuit of the general welfare provision of the Local Government Code and in order to promote the health and safety of your constituents and the environment, we request your office to do what is necessary to stop the trade of dangerous cosmetics containing mercury in your city,” Dizon said.
“Aside from immediate law enforcement action, we request your office to please consider enacting an ordinance similar to what Quezon City adopted that will ban the manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics in your area of responsibility,” he added.
To combat the illegal trade of mercury-added cosmetics, the Quezon City Council in October 2018 unanimously enacted the said ordinance that was subsequently approved by then Mayor Herbert Bautista.
The group’s latest market surveillance in Baguio City also netted eight lipsticks with high concentrations of lead in excess of the 20 ppm regulatory limit.
Counterfeit MAC Mariah Carey and Qianxiu Hello Kitty lipsticks were found to contain lead in the range of 167 to 42,800 ppm.
According to WHO: “Lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children.” Exposure to lead has also been linked to reproductive health issues such as hormonal changes, menstrual irregularities, delays in the onset of puberty, reduced fertility in both men and women, and miscarriage.
The EcoWaste Coalition used a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device to screen the product samples for mercury and lead.