21 April 2013

Manila Stores Disobey Ban on Mercury-Laced Cosmetics (Poll Bets Urged to Take Action vs. Illegal Cosmetics Trade)




Banned products still on sale (above), laden with mercury but not yet banned (below)

Skin whitening products banned by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) for containing excessive amounts of mercury that pose health risk to  consumers and the environment, are still being sold by defiant vendors in Manila, a toxics watchdog reported on the eve of Earth Day.

In test buys conducted on April 19 and 20, the EcoWaste Coalition’s AlerToxic Patrol purchased a total of 21 skin whitening creams, including 14 banned products, from 12 stores selling Chinese medicines and cosmetics in Divisoria, Sta. Cruz and Quiapo.

Topping the list of products with sky-high level of mercury was a Beauty Girl Green Cucumber 6 Days Double Whitening Soft Essence Cream, with 50,600 parts per million (ppm) of mercury, way above the allowable limit of 1 ppm under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive. 

“Dangerous cosmetics loaded with mercury are sold with impunity despite repeated health warnings by the authorities,” said Aileen Lucero, Acting National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“This is very bad for our people’s health, and for the environment since mercury in cosmetics is discharged into wastewater that ultimately goes into storm drains, rivers and seas,” she added.

The 14 banned items still on sale for P15- P150 each were the Natural Orange Whitening and Anti-Aging Package and Yoko Whitening Cream with SPF-15 banned last March 14, 2013; Aichun Pawpaw Fade Out Cream, Bai Li Tou Hong Cream , Special Cream (1 Jar) and Special Cream (2 Jar-Set) banned in 2012;  Aichun Beauty (with Green Tea Essence) Cream, Aichun Beauty Green Tea Whitening Speckle Removing Series Cream,  Miss Beauty Excellent Therapy Whitening Cream  (2 types), and Yoko Gentleman Cream banned in 2011
; and Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, Jiaoli 7-Days Eliminating Freckle AB Set and S’Zitang banned since 2010.

The EcoWaste Coalition also obtained seven products, sold from P110-P320 each, that tested positive for mercury in subsequent analysis.  The seven products are not yet on the FDA’s list of 77 banned skin whitening cosmetics.

These seven products were the
Beauty Girl Green Cucumber 6 Days Double Whitening Soft Essence Cream; Gakadi; Hengxueqian Whitening Set; White Advance Hydroxytyrosol L-Glutathione Whitening and Anti-Aging Cream; Yudantang Ginseng and Green Cucumber 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence; Yudantang 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence (with pictures of a cow and papaya); and one product labelled in Chinese characters (with red flower and green leaves).


With X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer, the EcoWaste Coalition analyzed the products and found enormous quantities of mercury with the following as the “top 10” in terms of mercury content:

1.   Beauty Girl Green Cucumber 6 Days Double Whitening Soft Essence Cream, with 50,600 ppm;
2.  Yudantang Ginseng and Green Cucumber 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence, with 44,800 ppm;
3.   Hengxueqian Whitening Set, with 19,100 ppm;
4.   Natural Orange Whitening and Anti-Aging Package, with 15,400 ppm
5.   Yudantang 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence (with pictures of a cow and papaya),  with 11,000 ppm;
6.   Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, with 5,513 ppm;
7.  White Advance Hydroxytyrosol L-Glutathione Whitening and Anti-Aging Cream, with 4,977 ppm;
8.   Bai Lo Tou Hong Cream, with 4,887 ppm;
9.   Jiaoli 7-Days Eliminating Freckle AB Se, with 3,933 ppm; and
10. S’Zitang, with 3,790 ppm.

“The electorate should ask candidates to take cognizance of the problem and act to combat this illegal trade that is making Manila the ‘cosmetoxic’ capital of the country,” she emphasized.  “Cosmetoxic” is a term coined by the EcoWaste Coalition to draw attention to the proliferation of cosmetics laced with harmful substances in the market.

Politicians vying for Manila City Council seats, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out, should throw their support behind a proposed ordinance filed in 2012 that could have contained, if not crushed, the illegal trade of “cosmetoxic” in the city.  The ordinance would have prohibited:

"a.  The manufacture, importation, marketing and promotion, distribution and sale of cosmetics with mercury in excess of 1 ppm as set by the FDA."
"b.  The sale, wholesale or retail, of cosmetics that have not been authorized by the FDA as required by R.A. 9711."
"c.  The sale, wholesale or retail, of cosmetics that have not complied with the labeling requirements implemented by the FDA."
“d.  The open dumping, open burning and/or disposal of banned, recalled and/or confiscated mercury-containing cosmetics in regular municipal solid waste.”

As proposed, “any violation of the ordinance shall be a basis for the suspension of the business license or permit for a period of not more than fifteen (15) days for the first violation; thirty (30) days for the second violation, and the revocation thereof for the third and subsequent violations,” and the imposition of severe penalties under R.A. 9711, or the Food and Drugs Administration Act.

According to the World Health Organization, “the main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening 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.  Other effects include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy,” it added.

To avoid exposure to mercury in cosmetics, the EcoWaste Coalition recommends the following:  

1.  Read the product label; reject products that do not list their ingredients; say no to products with incomplete information or with labels written in a language that you cannot understand.

2.  If you are already using a skin whitening product containing mercury, stop using it and consult a doctor at once.

3.  Dispose of mercury-containing products responsibly: do not mix it with other trash; do not burn as mercury will vaporize and contaminate the air.

4.  Contact the FDA through their hotlines 8571900 and 165332 for information and advice.

-end-

Reference:

www.who.int/ipcs/assessment/public_health/mercury_flyer.pdf

Note:  The draft
ORDINANCE TO STOP THE ILLEGAL SALE OF INJURIOUS MERCURY-CONTAINING COSMETICS AND ALL OTHER UNREGISTERED AND UNLABELED OR MISLABELED COSMETICS IN THE CITY OF MANILA” was filed by District II Councilor Numero Lim in March 2012.



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