Group Alarmed by the Proliferation of Smuggled Cosmetics in Divisoria Quiapo (Watchdog Cautions Consumers on Health and Safety Hazards of Using Unregistered Cosmetics)

Consumers should exercise maximum precaution when buying unregistered cosmetics, particularly in budget shops and malls, which may contain dangerous contaminants or ingredients beyond allowable limits.

The EcoWaste Coalition, a chemical safety and zero waste watchdog, sounded the alarm over the unrestricted sale of smuggled cosmetics in Divisoria and Quiapo following a recent market investigation in Manila’s must-visit places for bargain hunters.

Prompted by a fresh advisory issued by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) on three lipsticks and whitening spray with high lead content, the group’s AlerToxic Patrol last week obtained 35 samples of lipsticks costing P12.50 to P50 each from one department store and seven cosmetics retailers in the area.

“We verified through the FDA’s website if the lipsticks had the required market authorization and found out that most are not notified with the agency and therefore not authorized to be in the market,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Notified cosmetics carry the following information in English on the product label, package or leaflet: name, ingredients, net content, instruction on usage, batch number, special precautions if any, and country of manufacture and/or importer.

Among these unnotified lipsticks are Aili Kiss, Baolishi, Chanleevi, Daiyasi, Ily, Lidanxiu, Meiya, Miss Beauty, Miss Merry, Monaliza, Pure, Yan Di and one that only says “Lipstick,” the EcoWaste Coalition reported. 

In addition, the group expressed concern over the sale of the more expensive “Class A” imitations of high-end lipstick brands, particularly in Divisoria.

“The booming sale of illegal cosmetics is very alarming with the culprits enjoying virtual impunity.  This is frightening as some of these products are laden with dangerous chemicals posing serious health and environmental hazards,” she added.

“Some lipsticks are terribly toxic with astronomical amounts of lead, a potent brain and developmental toxin,” she pointed out.

For example, the group detected atrocious levels of lead, over and above the 20 parts per million (ppm) limit under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive, in several Baolishi and Monaliza lipsticks in the range of 2,278 to 17,100  ppm  as measured by a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometer. 
Baolishi and Monaliza are among the 36 lipsticks ordered seized by the FDA in three advisories issued in 2013, 2014 and 2015 for exceeding the lead limit or for being marketed without the required authorization from the agency.  Thirty-three of these 36 lipsticks were brought to the attention of the FDA by the EcoWaste Coalition and subsequently banned.

The FDA had earlier warned that lipsticks with no market authorization “
may contain high levels of heavy metals, especially lead, a proven toxicant that accumulates in the body through constant exposure and absorption over a prolonged period.”

“ Health problems through chronic ingestion of high level of lead in lipsticks may manifest as neurologic, hematologic, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, and renal problems,” the FDA warned.

“In adults, lead toxicant has been linked with high blood pressure, joint pain, poor memory, and concentration problems. Lead easily crosses the placenta, and pregnant women should pay particular attention to the different sources of lead exposure,” the FDA said.

The EcoWaste Coalition last Friday sent 10 lipstick samples to the FDA for confirmatory laboratory analysis for toxic lead and mercury.