Chemical Safety Cosmetics Toxic Products

EcoWaste Coalition Urges Online Shopping Sites to Take Down Ads for Mercury-Added Skin Care Products

A watchdog group tracking the illegal trade of mercury-added cosmetics in the Philippines sought the immediate removal of advertisements for such unlawful products as popular online shopping sites embarked on full operations amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis.

“We urge the management of e-commerce platforms to filter out bad advertisements for skin care products banned by health authorities for lacking market authorization or for being contaminated with mercury,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“The removal of these illegitimate ads by online retailers will support the implementation of the country’s National Action Plan for the Phase-Out of Mercury-Added Products and the Management of the Associated Mercury-Containing Wastes in keeping with the Minamata Convention,” he pointed out.

The EcoWaste Coalition directed its plea to online retailers Lazada, Shopee and Carousell who are expected to restart full operations as the list of products that are allowed for delivery during the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Metro Manila and other COVID-19 high-risk areas is expanded.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) had earlier expanded the list of items that can be delivered even in ECQ areas to include the so-called “next essentials” as mentioned by DTI Secretary Ramon Lopez.

Online retail giants were quick to take their cue from DTI.  Lazada has launched a “Bounce Back Sale” from May 3 to 5.  Shopee has confirmed “aside from essential goods, our Filipino users can now have access to non-essential goods from different categories like fashion, beauty, and many more.”

The EcoWaste Coalition had repeatedly deplored third-party online ads for skin whitening products banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for containing mercury or for lacking the required cosmetic product notifications.

From 2010-2018, the FDA has banned over 135 brands of mercury-laden skin whitening creams, including 80 items discovered by the EcoWaste Coalition through its periodic market surveillance and chemical screening activities.

Among these banned items sold by online resellers are Collagen Plus Vit E, Feique, Golden Pearl, Goree, Jiaoli and S’Zitang facial creams, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “adverse health effects of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening creams and soaps include: kidney damage, skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, anxiety, depression, psychosis and peripheral neuropathy.”

“Babies in the womb are not spared as mercury can cross the placenta during pregnancy and affect the developing brain and nervous system causing cognitive development problems. Fetuses, infants and young children are susceptible to mercury toxicity,” the EcoWaste Coalition warned.

Republic Act 9711, or the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009, bans the manufacture, importation, exportation, sale, offering for sale, distribution, transfer, non-consumer use, promotion, advertising, or sponsorship of any health products without the proper authorization from the FDA.

Regionally, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has added “mercury and its compounds” to Annex II of the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive, or the “list of substances  which must not form part of the composition of cosmetic products.”

While the Philippines has signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury way back in 2013 and has adopted progressive policies to control mercury pollution, the government has yet to ratify the treaty, which stipulates a global phase-out target by 2020 of skin whitening cosmetics with mercury above one part per million (ppm), the EcoWaste Coalition said.