A waste and pollution watch group cautioned consumers, particularly pregnant women, from using cosmetics laden with toxic chemicals like lead and mercury that can cross the placenta and interfere with brain development of the baby in the womb.
The EcoWaste Coalition sounded the alarm over toxic cosmetics following its latest market investigation that netted unregistered skin care and whitening products with high levels of heavy metal impurities as per screening using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer.
Zahra Beauty Cream, costing P150, from Pakistan, and Feique Lemon Whitening Freckle-Removing Cream, costing P60 , from China were found to contain 9,780 and 7,988 parts per million (ppm) of mercury, while Top Shirley Medicated Cream, costing P40, from Taiwan, was found contaminated with 2,180 ppm of lead.
The items, which were recently procured by the EcoWaste Coalition from retailers in Baclaran, Divisoria and Quiapo, are not registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“We are outraged by the unethical sale of skin cosmetics containing lead and mercury that can harm the developing brain even before a child is born. These potent neurotoxins can enter the body via dermal absorption and ingestion, build up over time and pass through the placental barrier affecting early development of the baby’s brain,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“Pregnant women must stay away from skin cosmetics containing these known brain and central nervous system poisons. Lead and mercury-laden facial creams applied on a frequent basis can result in significant exposure levels for both the mother and the baby in her womb and must be totally avoided,” advised toxicologist Dr. Erle Castillo of the Medical Center Manila and the Philippine Society of Clinical and Occupational Toxicology (PSCOT).
According to the US Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), “mercury's harmful effects that may be passed from the mother to the fetus include brain damage, mental retardation, incoordination, blindness, seizures, and inability to speak. Children poisoned by mercury may develop problems of their nervous and digestive systems, and kidney damage.”
“Fetuses exposed to lead in the womb, because their mothers had a lot of lead in their bodies, may be born prematurely and have lower weights at birth. Exposure in the womb, in infancy, or in early childhood also may slow mental development and cause lower intelligence later in childhood. There is evidence that these effects may persist beyond childhood,” the ATSDR said.
Heavy metals, including lead and mercury, cannot be deliberately added to cosmetic product formulations as such substances are not allowed under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive that is subscribed to by the FDA.
According to the ASEAN Guidelines on Limits of Contaminants for Cosmetics, the trace amounts limits for mercury and lead in cosmetics should not be more than 1 and 20 ppm, respectively.
The EcoWaste Coalition has already notified the FDA about its latest cheap but toxic finds.
The group in March 2018 also reported to the FDA the sale of unregistered Aneeza Gold Beauty Cream, Aneeza Saffron Whitening Cream, Face Lift Whitening Beauty Cream, Parley Beauty Cream, and Parley Whitening Cream - all made in Pakistan - containing mercury in the range of 16,500 to 32,900 ppm.
Also, the group has alerted the FDA about the sale of 12 mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics at popular online shopping sites, including six products that were already among those banned by the agency for containing mercury above the regulatory limit.