EcoWaste exposes trade of mercury-laden cosmetics in QC
The sale of skin lightening cosmetics contaminated with mercury in Quezon City has not stopped despite the promulgation five years ago of a historic ordinance banning such poisonous cosmetics
Based on the market monitoring conducted by the toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition, at least 15 physical stores and three online sellers are engaged in the unlawful distribution and sale in Quezon City of cosmetics banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for containing mercury and/or for lacking the required cosmetic product notification.
The group conducted the monitoring on November 12 in anticipation of the 5th anniversary of approval of Quezon City Ordinance No. 2767, series of 2018, which banned the manufacture, distribution and sale of mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics in the city. The EcoWaste Coalition actively campaigned for the enactment of the ordinance, which then Mayor Herbert Bautista approved on November 19, 2018.
As reported by the group to Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte through an e-mail sent today, the defiant retailers are engaged in the unlawful sale of Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene, Goree Day & Night Beauty Cream, and 88 Total White Underarm Cream, which have been analyzed to contain mercury in excess of the one part per million (ppm) limit as per the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.
Aside from violating Quezon City Ordinance No. 2767, s-2018, the unrelenting sale of such mercury-containing cosmetics contravenes the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which phased out in 2020 the manufacture, import or export of cosmetics such as skin lightening creams and soaps with mercury content above 1 ppm, the group observed.
The sale of such products also violates RA 7394, or the Consumer Act of the Philippines, which prohibits adulterated cosmetics or those containing any poisonous or deleterious substances, and RA 9711, or the Food and Drug Administration Act, which prohibits health products, including cosmetics, that are adulterated, unregistered or misbranded, the group pointed out.
To uphold the objectives of Quezon City Ordinance No. 2767, s-2018, the EcoWaste Coalition recommended to the Quezon City Government to conduct law enforcement action, including random store inspection and confiscation of mercury-containing cosmetics being offered for sale; ensure environmentally sound storage and disposal of the confiscated contraband mercury-containing cosmetics; charge violators in court; and to cancel business license issued by the city for repeat offenders.
The group also requested the City Mayor to direct the City Health Department and the Public Affairs and Information Services Office (PAISO) to organize an information and education campaign that will educate the people about the dangers of mercury-containing cosmetics and the importance of ensuring compliance to Quezon City Ordinance No. 2767, s-2018.
It further urged the authorities to promote “Natural is Beautiful” to instill appreciation and acceptance of one’s natural skin color and to discourage use of chemical whiteners to alter one’s skin tone.
Having actively participated in the process leading to the promulgation of the said ordinance, the EcoWaste Coalition affirmed its interest to collaborate with the Quezon City Government in order to realize the following objectives of the ordinance:
“To halt the illegal manufacture, importation, marketing and promotion, distribution and sale of cosmetic products not compliant with the state and ASEAN policy on mercury in cosmetics.”
“To promote citizen awareness about the health and environmental hazards of consuming mercury-containing cosmetics.”
“To ensure the environmentally-sound management of banned, recalled and/or confiscated mercury-containing cosmetics.”
The ordinance provides for penalties, including a fine of P2,000 and confiscation of banned cosmetic products for the first offense; a fine of P3,000 and suspension to operate business for the second offense; and, for the third offense, a fine of P5,000, imprisonment of 30 days or cancellation of business license given by the City, at the discretion of the court. In addition to these penalties, convicted violators will also be required to render 30 days of community service.
“Mercury is hazardous to human health,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Mercury in skin lightening cosmetics is released through usual product use with dermal absorption and inhalation as common exposure routes. It can cause skin discoloration, rashes and scarring, and it can reduce skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections. Repeated applications can harm the kidneys, the brain and the central nervous system.
The use of mercury-containing skin lightening products by pregnant women is of utmost concern as mercury is known to cross the placenta during pregnancy and accumulate in fetal tissues, affecting the developing brain and nervous system of the baby in the womb and causing neuro-developmental disorders, the health experts warned.
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