The EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watch group, has alerted consumers against using a brand of eyeliner that contains dangerously high concentrations of lead, cadmium and arsenic, which are hazardous to health and forbidden in cosmetic formulations.
The group’s latest toxic alert came on the heels of a public health warning issued this week by the government of New South Wales in Australia after three children fell ill due to lead poisoning from using Hashmi Kohl Aswad and Hashmi Surma Special eyeliners.
According to Mr. Matt Kean, the State Minister for Better Regulation, the children from the same family tested with elevated levels of lead in their blood. "An investigation indicated the health concerns were likely to have been caused by one of the Hashmi brand eyeliners," the minister said.
The Hashmi eyeliners from Pakistan are also sold in the Philippines as confirmed through test buys conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition prompting the group to renew its call for the government to ban the toxic eye cosmetic.
“These toxic eyeliners pose clear and present danger to consumers, especially to children and pregnant women, due to their heavy metals content and should be immediately withdrawn from the market and safely disposed of as hazardous waste. We urge the government to ban these poison cosmetics at once,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
The group in 2014 notified the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about the illegal sale of Hashmi eyeliners after monitoring the import alert by US FDA against eye area cosmetics containing kohl, kajal or surma.
Yesterday, July 25, the group managed to buy Hashmi eyeliners for P180 each from retail outlets near the Golden Mosque in Quiapo, Manila.
Based on the chemicals screening performed by the group using an X-Ray Fluorescence device, both variants of Hashmi eyeliners had over 100,000 parts per million (ppm) of lead, way above the 20 ppm trace amount limit under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive (ACD).
The group also detected 20,300 ppm of arsenic and 6,218 ppm of cadmium in Hashmi Kohl, and 21,200 ppm of arsenic and 6,915 ppm of cadmium in Hashmi Surma, exceeding the ACD's 5 ppm limit for arsenic and cadmium.
Arsenic, cadmium and lead, which are prohibited as ingredients in cosmetics, are also listed among the 48 priority chemicals that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources "has determined to potentially pose unreasonable risk to public health, workplace and the environment."
As stated by the US FDA, “products containing kohl and similar ingredients have been linked to lead poisoning, especially among children.”
“The risks associated with exposure to lead are especially serious for children. Among the effects associated with high levels of lead exposure are anemia, kidney problems, and neurological damage that may include seizures, coma, and death,” it said.
“Even at relatively low levels, chronic exposure to lead may lead to learning and behavior problems,” it warned.
The EcoWaste Coalition echoed two important steps as advised by the US FDA that consumers should take against exposure to kohl and similar products:
1. "Stop using the product immediately and be especially careful to protect children from further exposure."
2. "Ask a healthcare provider to test children as well as pregnant or nursing women for lead poisoning if they have used the product."