Govt. Regulators Swoop Down on Baclaran Stores Selling Mercury-Laced Cosmetics (Chemical Safety Advocates Sing “Jingle Bells” to Urge Traders to Stop the Illegal Sale)

Regulators from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday
swooped down on Baclaran shops and seized 120 skin whitening products laden with
mercury, a highly toxic chemical poison.

Together with the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol, the FDA team of four regulatory officers led by Melody Zamudio inspected
several Chinese drug stores as well as beauty product stores situated in both
the Parañaque and Pasay sides of Baclaran.

The joint health information and enforcement action by the government and the
civil society came on the heels of a renewed drive to stop the illegal trade of
mercury-containing cosmetics, an explicit breach of R.A. 9711, the FDA Act of
2009, and R.A. 7394, the Consumer Act of the Philippines.

FDA Director Dr. Kenneth Hartigan-Go has earlier warned that “chronic use
reduces the skin’s normal resistance against bacterial and fungal infections,”
and that “the transfer of mercury to fetuses of pregnant women may manifest as
neurodevelopment deficits later in life.”

“We appeal to all traders to abide by the FDA’s directive to prevent exposure
and disease from mercury-containing cosmetics. At the same time, we urge our
health, police and local authorities to vigorously enforce the law,” said
Aileen Lucero of the EcoWaste Coalition, Project Protect, adding that “the
strong arm of the law could finally put an end to this dangerous trade that
plays on some people’s craving for lighter complexion.”

FDA on November 28 came out with DOH-FDA Advisory 2012-018 enlarging the list
of banned mercury-tainted cosmetics now numbering at 71, while the EcoWaste
Coalition on December 8 uncovered the sale of five more skin whitening products
loaded with mercury exceeding the regulatory limit of 1 part per million (ppm).

It will be recalled that the EcoWaste Coalition in July and in August this year
pinpointed Baclaran as a “hotspot” due to the blatant trade of banned
mercury-loaded cosmetics in the bustling hub of commerce and trade.

A market surveillance conducted by the group last Saturday and also today prior
to the event re-confirmed that
mercury-laden skin whitening products are widely available in Baclaran,
including banned Aichun, Jiaoli,  Long Dian Tu, S’zitang products, as well as“Natural Orange
Whitening and Anti-Aging Package,” “TVC Spot Remover” and “Spring Return
Ginseng and Pearl Natural Pure Plants Whitening Cream,” which are yet to be

During today’s event, the FDA representatives explained the latest directive
from the agency and gave non-compliant stores with appropriate notices.

To the delight of curious passers-by, EcoWaste volunteers from Buklod Tao sang
the following song to the tune of “Jingle Bells” while the FDA inspection was
going on:

Mercury, mercury, toxic sa kalusugan (Mercury,
mercury, toxic to human health)
Pampaputing may mercury, malalagot ka dyan (Skin whitening with mercury can
endanger you)
Mercury, mercury, toxic rin sa kalikasan (Mercury, mercury is also toxic to
Itigil na, itigil na ang pagbebenta niyan, hoy! (Stop its sale, stop its sale,

“The song says it all. We hope the store
owners get the message, loud and clear,” Lucero said.

They also provided store owners with copies of the latest DOH-FDA advisory,
as well as relevant posters, factsheets and newspaper clippings about mercury
in products and their adverse health and environmental effects.