In a combined enforcement action for consumer health and safety, representatives of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Buklod Tao and the EcoWaste Coalition braved the scorching sun to conduct an on-the-spot screeningof skin whitening products for mercury and other toxic metals.
Also present was Manila District II Councilor Numero Lim who had earlier filed a resolution and an ordinance to halt the unrelenting sale of cosmetics containing mercury in excess of the regulatory limit of one part per million (ppm).
“We laud the EcoWaste Coalition for their resolute action against health and environmental toxins in consumer products in support of the FDA’s mission,” said Dr. Suzette Lazo, Director, FDA.
“We appeal to all consumers to be wary of contraband cosmetics that could contain mercury and other chemical or bacterial contaminants. Please take precaution as these products pose real risks to health and should neither be offered for sale nor patronized and consumed,” she added.
During the event, EcoWaste Coalition’s A lerToxic Patrollers bought 12 samples of skin lightening creams, mostly imported from China, Taiwan and Thailand, from Chinese drug stores along Bustos St. and nearby areas and had them analyzed at once using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer.
Nine of the 12 samples tested positive for mercury, including five items which were among the 50 brands already banned by the FDA in 2010-2011 for containing high levels of mercury that could pose imminent harm to the consuming public.
“Beauty Girl Natural Olive and Sheep Essence 10 Days Double Whitening Speckles Removed Essence” had the highest mercury conten t among the items screened at 31,400 ppm, way above the allowable limit of 1 ppm.
After the XRF screening, FDA enforcers went to a Chinese drug store at Good Earth Plaza in Sta. Cruz, confiscated the mercury-tainted products and announced that proper charges will be filed against the store owner.
Aileen Lucero, Safe Cosmetics Campaigner of the EcoWaste Coalition warned that applying mercury-laden cosmetics onto the skin can cause serious dermal problems such as discoloration, inflammation, itchiness and tiny bumps, w hile repeated use can eventually damage the brain and the kidneys.
The US Environmental Protection Agency, according to Lucero, has classified mercuric chloride, a mercury compound often used in skin bleaching products, as a “possible human carcinogen.”
“These poison products should be taken off the store shelves right away and discarded as hazardous waste requiring environmentally-sound handling, storage and disposal,” she emphasized.
For his part, Councilor Lim urged the City Council to expedite the approval of the draft “Ordinance to Stop the Illegal Sale of Injurious Mercury-Containing Cosmetics in the City of Manila” he filed in March this year.
Lim’s ordinance prohibits the trade of mercury-tainted creams, lotions and soaps that are designed to lighten or whiten the color of the skin, and imposes harsh penalties to violators.
Consistent with R.A. 9711 or the Food an d Drug Administration Act of 2009, the ordinance will penalize individual violators with imprisonment from one to 10 years or a fine from P50,000 to P500,000, or both.
The imprisonment of five to 10 years and the fine of P500,000 to P5,000,000 will be imposed against violators who are manufacturers, importers or dist
If adopted, the ordinance will also ban the open dumping, open burning and/or disposal of banned, recalled and/or confiscated mercury-containing cosmetics in regular municipal solid waste.