Advocates for consumer health and safety decried the unbridled sale in Quiapo, Manila of dangerous products laced with cyanide, lead, mercury and other substances of concern that the government had banned to protect the public health and the environment.
To stem such illegal trade at the heart of Manila’s famed cultural and commercial district, the EcoWaste Coalition called on the authorities to take a no-nonsense approach for enforcing health and safety directives.
Last Friday, August 8, three members of the group’s AlerToxic Patrol combed the Carriedo, Evangelista, Ramon Hidalgo, Carlos Palanca, Gonzalo Puyat and Villalobos Streets and Quezon Boulevard to find out if pertinent orders issued by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) banning certain products are complied with.
During their surveillance, the group saw for themselves how some of the forbidden products are openly sold in street stalls or general merchandise shops in the area with the exception of the abortion-inducing Cytotec, which is discreetly sold.
“We’re appalled to witness such a brazen show of non-compliance that makes a mockery of our consumer health and product safety laws,” stated Thony Dizon, Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.
“We need to tear down this culture of impunity where anyone can sell banned products that can threaten human and ecosystem health and simply get away with it,” he noted.
Among these life-threatening products on sale in Quiapo include:
1. Misoprostol (Cytotec), an unregistered drug banned by the FDA since 2002, that is secretly sold outside Quiapo Church for P600 for four tablets.
2. Brazilian Slimming Coffee and Leisure 18 Slimming Coffee that were among the 26 weight-reducing or anti-obesity products banned by the FDA from 2010-2012 for containing harmful ingredients such as amphetamine and sibutramine, sold for P100 each at Dimacalo General Merchandise, P. Gomez St. and J.B. Amante General Merchandise, Plaza Miranda.
3. Aichun Beauty Pawpaw Whitening and Freckle Remover, Bai Li Tou Hong and Erna Whitening Cream, which belong to the FDA’s list of 104 banned mercury-laced skin lightening creams that “pose imminent danger or injury to the consuming public,” sold at Chinese drug stores in Plaza Miranda.
4. Baolishi No. 20 and Mona Liza No. 20 lipsticks that the FDA banned in 2013 and 2014, along with 29 others, for containing excessive amounts of toxic lead, sold at general merchandise stores for P20 and P50, respectively.
5. Baolilai Aerosol Insecticide,Big Bie Pai Aerosol Insecticide, Big Bie Pai Extra Power Flying Insect Killer, Butiki Waterbased Multi-Insect Killer, Sun Universe Frogking Insecticide Aerosol , Tianshi Insect Killer and Green Leaf Powder Cockroach Killing Bait that were among the 16 insecticides banned by the FDA in 2013 for being “harmful, toxic and imminently dangerous to human and animal health,” sold in over 15 retail outlets, including ambulant vendors.
The EcoWaste Coalition also reported buying a liquid silver jewelry cleaning solution for P55. The Department of Health and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources jointly banned in 2010 deadly silver cleaners containing cyanide and other hazardous substances.
To end impunity in Quiapo and other business hubs such as Divisoria where budget-conscious Filipinos shop, the EcoWaste Coalition proposes the following:
1. For the government to launch massive public information campaign to educate sellers and consumers and insist on market compliance.
2. For the national and local health, trade, customs and police authorities to conduct nonstop operations to apprehend violators.
3. For the FDA to set up satellite offices in major centers of trade and commerce to ensure enforcement of the agency’s directives.
The EcoWaste Coalition further asked the government to ensure the environmentally-sound disposal of the confiscated items, many of which are laden with toxic metals and other chemicals of concern, to prevent occupational exposure and environmental pollution.
Mercury in Skin Creams: