Advocacy Chemical Safety Cosmetics Lifestyle Toxic Products

Mindanao LGUs Urged to Protect Their Constituents against Mercury Poisoning from Banned Skin Whitening Cosmetics

27 June 2019, Quezon City. A non-profit group tracking toxic chemicals in products and wastes has alerted local government units (LGUs) in seven cities in Mindanao about the unlawful sale of mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics in their areas of jurisdiction.

In a press statement, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the local government, health and police authorities of Cagayan de Oro, Oroquieta, Ozamiz, Iligan, Dipolog, Pagadian, and Zamboanga Cities to act fast to stop the illegal trade of such toxic skin whiteners that could put the health of their constituents, especially women and girls, at risk of mercury poisoning.

“To uphold the general welfare as stipulated under the Local Government Code, we appeal to concerned city officials, especially to newly-elected or re-elected mayors, to act with urgency to break the criminal sale of mercury-laced skin whitening products,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“As the Philippines develops its National Action Plan (NAP) for mercury-added products, we also urge our councilors to consider replicating the Quezon City Ordinance banning the production, importation, distribution, and sale of mercury-added skin whitening cosmetics in their area of responsibility,” he added.

Dizon emphasized that the requested action will not only promote the health and safety of citizens, but also prevent mercury in skin whitening cosmetics from being discharged into wastewater and consequently polluting the environment and the food chain.

The group aired its appeal for law enforcement action after conducting test buys from June 14 to 17 in seven bustling cities located at Misamis Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Lanao del Norte, Zamboanga de Norte. and Zamboanga del Sur.

The group managed to purchase 93 skin lightening creams costing P25 to P350 each from beauty and herbal product retailers mostly operating in public markets and shopping malls. The products, smuggled from China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan, have not undergone the required quality and safety assessment by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are therefore illegal to sell and unsafe to use.

The group screened the samples for mercury using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device.

Out of 93 samples, 75 items were found to be contaminated with mercury in the scale of 15 to 23,000 parts per million (ppm), way above the 1 ppm limit under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive as well as the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

All 11 samples of Goree Beauty Cream and Goree Day & Night Whitening Cream, which the FDA banned in 2017, had high concentrations of mercury ranging from 18,700 to 23,000 ppm.

Also found to contain violative levels of mercury, a chemical that is forbidden as ingredient in cosmetic product formulations, were Collagen Plus Vit E, Erna, Huayuenong, Jiaoli, La Widya, S’Zitang, Women of Flower, and Xinjiaoli whitening creams. The FDA had already issued advisories against these products except for La Widya Collagen Day & Night Cream.

While negative for mercury, Aichun Beauty Cream Fresh White, Aichun Beauty Cream Repair White, La Widya Temulawak Day & Night Cream, SP Asli Special UV Whitening, SP UV Special Whitening & Anti-Acne, The Face New Mengandung Temulawak Day & Night Cream, and UV Whitening Extra Ginseng are unlawful to sell due to the lack of market authorization from the FDA.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that “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,” the WHO said.

“Other effects include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy,” it added.


Reference: (see Section 16, General Welfare)