Online trade of cosmetics with mercury endangers health, environment
In time for the World Environment Day on June 5 and the mid-year online sales on June 6, the toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition urged online shopping leaders and dealers to protect human health and the ecosystems from mercury contamination.
The group specifically called for concrete measures to stop the use of e-commerce as a vehicle to flout the global ban on the manufacture, import or export of cosmetics such as skin lightening products with mercury content above one part million (ppm) as per the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
“As we urge our fellow Filipinos to say no to chemical whiteners and embrace our natural skin tone, we call on Lazada and Shopee to take effective actions to discontinue the use of their platforms by third-party sellers to promote and sell skin lightening products containing mercury, which can endanger the health of users and other household members, as well as contaminate the ecosystems as mercury from these products is discharged into waste water,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
The watchdog group, which has been publicizing the illicit sale of mercury-containing cosmetics since 2011, reiterated its appeal for action after monitoring product listings for cosmetics banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ahead of the 6.6 online sales.
“Our monitoring shows that FDA-banned skin lightening products are sold with impunity in both Lazada and Shopee despite the agency’s repeated warning not to distribute violative products such as those containing mercury and/or those lacking market authorization,” Lucero said.
Among the most advertised FDA-banned cosmetics are Pakistan-made Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene and Goree Day & Night Beauty Cream, which the FDA through Advisory No. 2017-289 banned after being tested and found to contain mercury, a toxic chemical not allowed in cosmetic product formulations.
“The advisory banning the Goree products was issued in October 2017. Over five years have already passed and these hazardous cosmetics are still flooding the market, especially online shopping sites,” lamented Lucero.
Aside from Goree, the EcoWaste Coalition also monitored product listings for other Pakistan-made FDA-warned cosmetics, including Golden Pearl Beauty Cream (new packaging) and Parley Goldie Advance Beauty Cream (which were both banned by the FDA in 2021).
For China made cosmetics, the EcoWaste Coalition monitored product listings for Jiaoli Miraculous Cream and Jiaoli 7 Days Eliminating Freckle AB Set (which the FDA banned in 2010), Ailke Perfect Salvation Rosy Whitening A & B Cream (2012), Feique Herbal Extract Whitening Anti-Freckle Set (2014), and S’Zitang (2010, 2017 and 2018).
The group also monitored FDA-warned products from Indonesia and Thailand such as Collagen Plus Vit E Day & Night Cream (which the FDA banned in 2017 and 2021), and 88 Total White Underarm Cream (2021).
Despite the issuance of the Philippine Guidelines for Online Businesses in March 2022, which reiterates the responsibility of online businesses to protect the interest of consumers against products that pose hazards to their health and safety, the unethical and unlawful online marketing of mercury-added cosmetics persists, the EcoWaste Coalition observed.
"It's high time for government health and trade regulators to crack the whip and stop the brazen use of online shopping platforms to market mercury-containing cosmetics,” the group insisted.
The group further restated its proposal for lead government agencies to initiate a review of the implementation of the National Action Plan adopted in 2019 for the phase-out of mercury-added products and the management of associated mercury-containing wastes, stressing the need for renewed efforts to enforce compliance to the phase-out targets for such products.
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