EcoWaste Coalition Highlights Women’s Right to Safe Cosmetics, Assails “Cosmetoxics” in the Market

A waste and pollution watchdog has come to the
defense of Filipino women’s right to safe cosmetics as it deplored the
“cosmetoxics’ that have seeped into the domestic market.

Through its Task Force on Chemical Safety, the EcoWaste Coalition lamented the
rampant sale of “cosmetoxics,” a term coined by the waste and pollution
watchdog to describe cosmetics loaded with toxic substances.

In a statement issued ahead of the International Women’s Day, the group
expressed concern over the “cosmetics explosion” as can be seen from the brisk
sales of mostly imported beauty products in key commercial hubs in the city of
Manila, some of which may have not complied with the government’s registration,
quality and safety requirements.

Ocular inspection by the group’s AlerToxic Patrol of Manila shops in Binondo,
Divisoria, Quiapo and Sta. Cruz districts that sell beauty aids, health
supplements and Chinese medicines showed the availability of a wide range of
cosmetics for almost any application imaginable, including skin lightening
cream, armpit whitening cream, hip massage cream, bikini line cream, slimming
cream, breast enlarging cream, breast lifting cream and even a cream that
promises to  make the mammary areola (aka nipple) “pink and bright.”

Other common beauty and personal care products for women include body,
facial and hand soap, vaginal wash, shampoo, conditioner, hair gel, mousse,
spray, wax or coat, toothpaste, mouthwash, body and skin lotion,
sunscreen, blush, powder, concealer, mascara, eye liner, eye shadow, eye brow
pencil, make up remover, lip gloss, lip liner, lip stick, deodorant, cuticle
and callus remover, nail polish, nail polish remover, perfume, acne, pimple and
wrinkle treatment, eye, nose and facial mask, and a lot more, the EcoWaste
Coalition said. 

“Trade globalization has placed this huge range of cosmetics at consumers’
fingertips.  But, are these products really safe for consumers,
especially for our women and youth?  Our consumers deserve
access to nothing less than safe products,” asked Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste
Coalition’s Project Protect.

A chemicals analysis by the EcoWaste Coalition of 60 beauty products last month
detected lead and mercury, both of which are potent neurotoxins, in 44 samples
of eyeshadows, lipsticks and skin whitening creams.

Using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the EcoWaste Coalition found:

a. 5 of 33 lipsticks had lead up to 11,600 ppm (a Mengdu
Express 3 in 1, No. 5)
b. 12 of 33 lipsticks had mercury up to 182 ppm (a MAC No. A19)
c. 7 of 22 eyeshadows had lead up to 4,028 ppm (a Kiss Beauty 20 Colors
Eyeshadow and 2 Colors Blusher)
d. 19 of 22 eyeshadows had mercury up to 88 ppm (an ADS
Fashion Color)
e. 5 of the 5 skin whitening creams had mercury up to 16,000 ppm (a Pretty
Model Whitening and Freckle Removing Cream)

The limits for lead and mercury under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive are
20 parts per million (ppm) and 1 ppm, respectively.

“For the health and well-being of our women and youth, we urge cosmetics
manufacturers here and abroad to produce non-hazardous cosmetics and to only
use chemicals that have undergone full safety assessment,” Lucero said.

As reported by the US Cosmetics Ingredients Review panel, less than 20% of
chemicals ingredients in cosmetics have been assessed for safety, or 1,594
chemicals out of some 12,500 chemicals used by the cosmetics and personal care
products industry.

Specifically, Lucero asked cosmetics manufacturers to:
1. Eliminate dangerous chemicals in cosmetics and personal
care products.
2. Respect consumer’s right to know by providing complete and truthful labeling
3. Provide hazard labeling for products containing
ingredients linked to cancer and other major health issues.

The EcoWaste Coalition urged both cosmetics producers and consumers to support
the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in its efforts to rid the market of
perilous products.  It also suggested that the FDA conducts a wider
sampling of cosmetics in the market and to swiftly recall and confiscate
non-compliant products with the help of other national and local government

Exposure to lead, a brain-damaging chemical linked to learning, language and
behavioral disorders, may cause early onset or delays in puberty onset in
girls, menstrual abnormalities, reduced fertility, pregnancy problems and
hormonal irregularities.

On the other hand, exposure to mercury in cosmetics may result to skin
discoloration, rashes and scarring and decrease skin’s resistance to bacterial
and fungal infections. WHO has warned that direct and prolonged exposure
through the skin during repeated applications can harm the kidneys and nervous
system, including the brain.

To prevent exposure to lead, mercury and other harmful substances, the EcoWaste
Coalition reminded  cosmetics consumers to:

1. Critically read the product label and refrain from buying unlabeled or
improperly labeled cosmetics and those not duly registered with the FDA.
2. Avoid cosmetics with chemical ingredients that are hard
to spell, pronounce and understand.
3. Demand safe products and be conscious of the health costs of “beauty.”

The efforts of the EcoWaste Coalition to protect consumers from “cosmetoxics”
have not gone unnoticed.

Last year in November, the FDA came out with an expanded list of 71 banned
mercury-containing skin whitening creams, including 20 brands tested and
exposed by the EcoWaste Coalition. 

Prior to this, Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Manny Villar filed Senate
Resolutions 866 and 310, respectively, calling for an inquiry, in aid of
legislation, on the need to enforce and tighten the ban on mercury-laden
cosmetics that pose health risks to consumers.

Senator Santiago also filed Senate Resolution 749 citing the
need “to introduce and implement toxic reduction strategies in cosmetics and
other consumer products.”
The EcoWaste Coalition is a national network of more than
150 public interest groups pursuing sustainable and just solutions to waste,
climate change and chemical issues towards the envisioned Zero Waste 2020 goal.