Women Lawmakers Urged to Push for Mercury-Free Cosmetics Law

Quezon City. With just few days before the 15th Congress opens, a chemical safety watchdog has asked lawmakers, especially women senators and representatives, to propose a law that will totally ban mercury from any cosmetic product sold in the Philippines.

The wave of recall orders issued this year by the government against mercury-laced skin lightening products prompted the EcoWaste Coalition, an environmental network of over 100 groups, to push for mercury-free cosmetics.

The group’s initiative coincided with the launch today of “The Story of Cosmetics,” an animated documentary featuring Annie Leonard which reveals that many cosmetic products contain toxic chemicals. Leonard, founder of the Manila-based Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA), is the star of Internet film sensation “The Story of Stuff,” which has been viewed worldwide over 10 million times.

“Filipino consumers, particularly the women and youth, must be protected from the ill effects of mercury and other toxins in personal care products. We can be beautiful inside and out without wasting money for toxic cosmetics,” said Velvet Roxas of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Task Force on Chemical Safety.

“Zero mercury in cosmetics will prevent mercury exposure via direct skin application and absorption of this poison,” she said.

“Eliminating mercury in products is also the most effective way to cut mercury releases from product wastes,” she emphasized.

“We hope that the ban on mercury in personal care products will lead to a broader policy on safe cosmetics, anchored on the precautionary principle, to stop chemical assault on women’s and children’s health,” she added.

“We further hope that our women senators and representatives will take the lead in taking chemicals that are linked to cancer among women and to birth and developmental disorders among children out of cosmetics,” she stated.

The government has so far issued three directives this year banning a total of 23 skin whitening creams, mostly imported from China, describing these products as “imminently unsafe, injurious or dangerous” for containing mercury way beyond the 1 part per million (ppm) threshold.

The EcoWaste Coalition and other groups are pushing for a revised standard of mercury in cosmetics from 1 ppm to zero ppm.

Citing information from the Mercury-Free Campaign of the International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), the EcoWaste Coalition warned that mercury-laced skin lightening products can badly damage human health.

Exposure to mercury has been known to cause blotchiness, uneven skin tone, easily sunburned skin, peeling skin, increased hyper-pigmentation, thickened skin, large pores, itchiness, redness, dark patches, light pink patches, and signs of premature aging such as lines and wrinkles, according to IPEN’s market analysis report of some mercury-containing products.

Dermal application of mercury can absorb into the bloodstream leading to health problems for the individual and for offspring born to women of childbearing years who use these, the report further said.

Manufacturers of some facial creams and soaps use mercury as a melanin inhibiting agent to lighten skin tone by reducing pigmentation and darkening. Mercury or hydroquinone will initially cause the skin to lighten by inhibiting production of melanin. Without melanin formation, no brown pigmentation will be visible. This produces the much-vaunted “instant lightening” results, the IPEN report stated.


“The Story of Cosmetics” http://www.storyofstuff.com/cosmetics/

“Market analysis of some mercury-containing products and their mercury-free alternatives in selected regions” published in 2010 by IPEN, Arnika and GRS: http://www.ipen.org/ipenweb/documents/ipen%20documents/grs253.pdf

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