20 February 2019

Sale of Mercury-Tainted Skin Whitening Cosmetics Continues Unabated in Region IV-A Despite Ban (EcoWaste Coalition Finds Banned Mercury-Laden Skin Whitening Creams on Sale in 9 Cities in CALABARZON)

A watch group tracking toxic chemicals in products and wastes scored the flagrant sale in Region IV-A of dangerous skin whitening cosmetics laced with mercury despite being banned by health authorities.

The EcoWaste Coalition exposed the illegal trade of mercury-containing skin whitening creams imported from China after procuring the proscribed products from retailers in nine cities in Region IV-A, also known as the CALABARZON region.

“We are appalled by the traders’ utter disregard for consumer health and safety that is threatened by mercury in cosmetics that promise to brighten and smoothen the skin,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Mercury, which is forbidden in cosmetic product formulations, is hazardous to health.  Chronic exposure to this highly toxic chemical can cause damage to the kidneys, nervous system, and to the skin itself,” he added.

“Now that the news is out, we expect our national and local government agencies to act with dispatch to rid CALABARZON of these dangerous products to protect consumers, especially women who unsuspectingly patronize such poison cosmetics,” he stated.   

In line with the country's laws as well as the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the EcoWaste Coalition exhorted local government units where the illegal products are sold to take action, including adopting ordinances banning mercury-contaminated skin whitening products like what Quezon City recently did.

In test buys conducted from February 15 to 18, the group bought 22 skin whitening cosmetics costing P60 to P200 each from stores selling beauty and herbal products in the cities of Cavite and Imus in Cavite province, BiƱan, San Pablo and San Pedro in Laguna province,  Batangas and Lipa in Batangas province, Antipolo in Rizal province and Lucena in Quezon province.  Many of the sellers provided official receipts.

The products bought were among those already covered by various public health warnings issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) against skin whiteners with mercury above the trace amount limit of 1 part per million (ppm) as per the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.

The group then screened the products for mercury using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device.  As per XRF screening, mercury exceeding the 1 ppm limit was detected in all the 22 samples.

S’Zitang 7-Day Specific Whitening & Spot A B Set was found to contain 3,058 ppm of mercury, Jiaoli Miraculous Cream 2,638 ppm, Jiaoli 7-Day Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set 2,636 ppm,  S’Zitang 10-Day Whitening & Spot Day-Night Set 2,627 ppm, Mifton 1155 ppm, JJJ Magic Spot Removing Cream 976 ppm, and Erna Whitening Cream 925 ppm.

The EcoWaste Coalition urged consumers to immediately stop using these health-damaging products and to seek medical attention, especially if they are starting to experience the side effects of using such products.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO),  “the main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage.”  It noted that “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.”  Other effects include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy, said the WHO.

The FDA has likewise warned “the transfer of mercury to fetuses of pregnant women may manifest as neurodevelopment deficits later in life.”

To halt the illegal trade of mercury-containing cosmetics, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the government to go after erring importers, distributors and sellers and to charge them under Republic Act 9711, or the Food and Drug Administration Act.

RA 9711 states that any person who violates the law shall, upon conviction, suffer the penalty of imprisonment from one to not more than 10 years or a fine of not less than P50,000 but not more than P500,000.  Stiffer penalties and fines await erring manufacturers, importers or distributors.


Interesting product claims as indicated on the product label or insert:

1.  Jiaoli Miraculous Cream: "Prepared from famous Chinese traditional medicine... quickly and thoroughly remove pigment and whiten the skin."
2.  JJJ: "With ancient medical recipe... a super spots removing cream.... makes skin shining within 7 days."
3.  Mifton: "Witness the white skin after seven days."
4.  S'Zitang: "Based on secret recipe of Chinese medicine... it is the true effective product for you to renew your youth and recollect your self-confidence."


18 February 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Reminds Poll Bets to Follow QC Ordinance Banning Plastic Propaganda Materials

A waste and pollution watch group urged national and local candidates campaigning in Quezon City for the 2019 mid-term polls to follow a local ordinance that will help in reducing the volume of plastic waste during the campaign period.

In a press statement, the EcoWaste Coalition exhorted concerned parties and individuals to abide by SP N0. 2202, series of 2013, “prohibiting polyethylene plastic advertisement and propaganda materials within the territorial jurisdiction of Quezon City.” 

“We urge all parties and candidates campaigning in Quezon City to conform with the said ordinance.  Full compliance will contribute to reducing the volume of plastic campaign litter polluting the environment,” stated Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Violators of SP 2202 shall be meted the following fines: notice of violation for the first offense; a fine of P3,000 and three-day community service for second offense; and a fine of P5,000 fine and a three-day community service for third offense.
Any firm or corporation caught selling, transporting or in possession of propaganda materials for use or installation in Quezon City shall face a fine of P3,000 up to P5,000 and revocation of mayor’s permit to operate.

“While the prohibition is restricted to polyethylene plastic materials, we appeal to everyone to limit their use of polyvinyl plastic election tarpaulins as these may contain cadmium and other hazardous chemicals that pose risks to human health and the environment,” Dizon pointed out.  

Adhering to the requirements of SP 2202, the group said, will be in line with COMELEC Resolution 10488, which provides for the rules and regulations implementing Republic Act 9006, or the Fair Election Act, in connection with the May 13, 2019 elections.

“In local government units where local legislation governing the use of plastic and other similar materials exist, parties and candidates shall comply with the same,” the resolution from the poll body said.

“Parties and candidates are encouraged to use recyclable and environment-friendly materials and avoid those that contain hazardous chemicals and substances in the production of their campaign and election propaganda,” it further said.

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition renewed its call on all parties and candidates not to put campaign materials in places not allowed by COMELEC Resolution 10488.

The group particularly assailed the tacking or nailing of campaign materials on trees as this could harm and make trees vulnerable to decay-causing micro-organisms, bad insects, and diseases causing, which can lead to stunted growth, shorter lifespan and premature death.

Republic Act 3571, as amended by Presidential Decree 953, prohibits the “cutting, destroying or injuring of planted or growing trees, flowering plants and shrubs or plants of scenic value along public roads, in plazas, parks, school premises or in any other public ground.”







15 February 2019

Group Calls Out DoE for Unused Lamp Waste Management Facility that Risks Becoming A White Elephant

A waste and pollution watch group has called out the Department of Energy (DoE) for the non-utilization of a costly facility that is supposed to provide a solution to the unsafe disposal of mercury-containing lamp waste.

Through a letter sent to the DoE, the EcoWaste Coalition drew attention to the Lamp Waste Management Facility (LWMF) that has been gathering dust since 2014 and could be turning into a white elephant.  The letter was sent yesterday to DoE Secretary Alfonso Cusi and to Energy Research and Testing Laboratory Services Director Amelia de Guzman.

“Considering the almost five-year delay in getting the LWMF operational, we call upon the Office of the DoE Secretary to convene an urgent meeting to apprise the stakeholders about the state of non-operation of the facility and what can be done to address this matter,” wrote Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

The group, as part of its work on mercury pollution prevention, has been writing the DoE regarding the LWMF since August 2016 in the hope of getting the facility up and running to ensure the proper recycling of mercury-added lamps.

Health-damaging mercury vapor in a mercury-containing lamp can be released if it breaks in the waste stream, is dumped, burned or recycled in uncontrolled conditions, the EcoWaste Coalition said.

According to government information, the DoE in 2013 procured a set of equipment capable of recovering mercury from lamp waste from MRT System International of Sweden for $1.37 M plus taxes and customs duties.

The establishment of the LWMF, a component of the DoE-led Philippine Energy Efficiency Project supported by a loan from the Asian Development Bank, is supposed to address the problem with residual mercury that is expected to increase with the use of energy efficient but mercury-containing compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs). 

The DoE operated the facility, located at a 1,000 square meter warehouse in Bagumbayan, Taguig City, during the pilot phase in 2014.

The EcoWaste Coalition is concerned that the non-use of the facility can affect the expensive and sensitive equipment consisting of a lamp processor, high-density discharge processor, batch process distiller, drying oven and vapor monitor.

“The non-operation of the facility for a long time can take its toll on the equipment, while the improper disposal of mercury lamp waste persists,” Dizon said.

According to “The Toxic Silence of the Lamps,” a report by the EcoWaste Coalition, broken and burned-out lamps are generally disposed of along with ordinary municipal solid waste and hauled to landfill facilities.

“Mercury in lighting products in the form of mercury vapor is released due to breakage during their use or during their handling, storage and disposal,” the report said, exposing humans, including waste workers, to mercury, a highly toxic substance.

“Occupational health risks are generally high for unprotected waste collectors, haulers and recyclers handling mixed discards in the municipal solid waste stream with bare face and hands,” the report noted.

Aside from lamp waste, waste workers have to deal with mercury from other mercury-added products and wastes, including other electronic waste such as switches and relays, medical devices such as thermometers, skin whitening cosmetics, dental fillings, etc.

“Exposure to mercury and other hazardous and toxic substances in the waste stream is a major threat to waste workers’ health,” the report pointed out.


DoE’s powerpoint presentation on the LWMF
“The Toxic Silence of the Lamps”

14 February 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Urges FDA to Test Fragrance Products Sold By Sidewalk Vendors for Harmful Chemicals (“The fragrance you are wearing could be making you and others around you sick.”)

Beware of the fragrance you are wearing that could be making you and others around you sick.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a waste and pollution watch group, drew attention to the potential health risks   linked with fragrance products that are widely sold in the market as these may contain allergenic and hormone disrupting substances.

Through a letter sent to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the group notified the agency about the proliferation of cheap fragrance products sold by sidewalk vendors that have no valid cosmetic product notifications.  The letter was sent yesterday via e-mail to Director General  Nela Charade Puno and Center for Cosmetic Regulation and Research  Director Ana Trinidad Rivera.

The group expressed  concern over the undisclosed ingredients in perfume products, particularly in the “fragrance” or “parfum”, which may contain chemicals that can trigger allergies, asthma, migraine headaches, and other health problems.

According to Skin Deep® Cosmetics Database, “the word ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ on the product label represents an undisclosed mixture of various scent chemicals and ingredients used as fragrance dispersants such as diethyl phthalate. Fragrance mixes have been associated with allergies, dermatitis, respiratory distress and potential effects on the reproductive system.”

“Our monitoring shows that fragrance products carrying different brand names are widely available in the informal market, particularly in the streets of Quiapo, Manila, where we managed to procure 16 different items,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.  

“We are deeply concerned with the proliferation of such products that are within the purview of the FDA because the products have not undergone quality and safety assessment, and the actual composition of the fragrance in these products is unknown,” he said.

The products, which are supposedly imported from China, are sold by sidewalk vendors for P50 per bottle of 35 ml.

Among these are  imitation products of popular perfume brands, including “Boos Orange” (for “Boss Orange”), “Euphorie” (for “Euphoria”),  “Pqlq” (for “Polo”), and “Vercage” (for “Versace”), the group said.

While the packaging provides for basic information, including the product’s name, manufacturer, country of manufacture and ingredients, as well as precautionary statement, no information is given about the product’s importer or distributor.   

To protect consumers against unwanted exposure to undisclosed substances in fragrance products that may cause health problems for users as well as non-users, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the FDA to:

1.  Issue a public health advisory informing and warning consumers against the use of unnotified fragrance products such as perfume, cologne, aftershave, etc.

2.  Analyze samples of unnotified fragrance products for banned or restricted substances, especially those linked to allergic reactions , hormone disruption, cancer and other hazardous health conditions.

3.  Conduct law enforcement activities to stop the sale of illegal fragrance products.

To curb exposure to chemicals of concern in fragrance products, the EcoWaste Coalition, a proponent for a zero waste and toxics-free society, proposed that users should limit their use of perfume to special occasions, apply perfume in well-ventilated place, and seek out natural products that are free from parabens, phthalates, solvents and other synthetic chemicals.




13 February 2019

Watch Out for Kissable but Poisonous Lips (EcoWaste Coalition’s Latest Market Investigation Nets 61 Toxic Lipsticks)

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, a toxic chemical tracker has revealed that some lipsticks are laden with hazardous substances way above permissible trace amounts.

The EcoWaste Coalition cautioned lipstick lovers against putting on lip color from adulterated and misbranded lipsticks that can expose them to lead and other chemical poisons that are harmful to human health.  

The group gave a word of warning about poison lipsticks after screening 115 samples, representing 11 brands, for heavy metal contaminants using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device.

The group bought the samples for P10 to P50 each from cosmetic vendors in Baclaran, Cubao, Divisoria and Quiapo on February 5, 7 and 8.  None of the samples are notified or registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Out of 115 samples, 61 (53 percent) were found to contain lead concentrations above the 20 parts per million (ppm) limit under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive (ACD).  Of the 61 lead-laden samples, 41 contained lead above 1,000 ppm, with levels ranging from 1,026 to 44,800 ppm. 

“The levels of lead in these lipsticks are way beyond the permissible limit and, without a shred of doubt, a serious safety concern.  Teen girls and adult women should avoid these poison lipsticks as lead, a cumulative toxicant, can build up in the body over time with frequent application of such lipsticks.  There is no safe level of lead exposure,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

Aside from lead, some samples also screened positive for mercury (32 samples), arsenic (53 samples), and cadmium (10  samples) in excess of the ACD’s trace amount limits for these heavy metals (1 ppm for mercury, and 5 ppm for both arsenic and cadmium).

According to toxicologist Dr. Erle Castillo of the Medical Center Manila and the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology (PSCOT): “The human body has no use for these toxic metals, which are harmful even at low levels of exposure and can cause a host of health problems, including damage to the brain and the central nervous system, hormonal changes and menstrual irregularities, infertility in both women and men, birth defects, as well as cancer.”

Avoiding poison lipsticks and other cosmetics laden with hazardous substances will also protect the environment from being contaminated with chemicals that are washed down the drain, which can harm fish and other marine organisms, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.

Samples of Qianxiu lipstick and imitation MAC lipstick topped the list of products with dangerously high concentrations of lead, and some of which were among those submitted by the EcoWaste Coalition to the FDA last September 2018 for product verification and appropriate regulatory action

Topping the list of lipsticks per variant with the highest levels of lead contaminant include:

1. Qianxiu Hello Kitty #01 (pink canister), 44,800 ppm
2. MAC Mariah Carey #02 (brown canister), 38,900 ppm
3. Qianxiu Hello Kitty #10 (black canister), 28,700 ppm
4. MAC Mariah Carey #06 (red canister), 12,600 ppm
5. Qianxiu Unicorn #10, 11,900 ppm
6. MAC Zacposen Rudy Woo #12, 9,571 ppm
7. MAC Charm Red Lips Rudy Woo #12, 8,788 ppm
8. Qianxiu Fashion #01, 6,013 ppm
9. Baby Lips Perfect Match, 3,187 ppm
10. Monaliza Series #10, 1,808 ppm

As these adulterated and misbranded lipsticks are imported, the EcoWaste Coalition urged the government to strengthen border controls to prevent the entry of such cosmetics.

“We also think that national and local government agencies should conduct nonstop law enforcement activities, including on-the-spot confiscation of contraband items and preventive closure of erring business establishments, to rid the market of toxic cosmetics,” Dizon said.

There may be a need for the next Congress to enact a Special Law on Counterfeit Cosmetics imposing heavy fines and penalties that will make it unprofitable for manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers to engage in such business, he added.