A toxics watch group has deplored the over-the-counter sale of banned mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics by some retail outlets in Cubao, Quezon City.
The EcoWaste Coalition last Friday, December 21, chanced upon the illegal sale in Cubao of dangerous Jiaoli and S’Zitang skin whitening products from China, an act that is forbidden under Quezon City Ordinance No. 2767.
Photos taken by the group show Jiaoli and S’Zitang products on display in at least three stores operating inside Shopwise-Cubao. The unnamed stores sell beauty and herbal products.
Jiaoli and S’Zitang are among the skin whitening products banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to their mercury content, which “pose imminent danger or injury to the consuming public," according to the agency.
Approved by Quezon City Mayor Herbert Bautista on November 19, 2018, City Ordinance No. 2767 authored by District 1 Councilor Elizabeth Delarmente prohibits “the manufacture, importation, marketing and promotion, distribution and sale of cosmetics with mercury content in excess of 1 part per million (ppm).
The said ordinance also bans “the sale, wholesale or retail, of cosmetics that have not been authorized by the FDA and/or have not complied with the labeling requirements,” as well as “the open dumping, open burning and/or disposal of banned, recalled and/or confiscated mercury-containing cosmetics along with regular solid waste.”
The continuing trade of banned mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics in Cubao should prompt the city government into conducting effective public information and law enforcement activities starting January 2019 to meet the objectives of City Ordinance 2767, the EcoWaste Coalition pointed out.
The EcoWaste Coalition called upon the retail stores to immediately halt their unlawful business, which can endanger the public health and pollute the environment with mercury. “These non-compliant stores should do the right thing and not wait for their business license to be cancelled by the city authorities,” the group said.
Mercury is a highly toxic chemical with no known level of exposure that is considered safe, the EcoWaste Coalition emphasized, adding that fetuses, babies, children, and pregnant women are most vulnerable to the health effects of mercury.
According to the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment, “mercury use in cosmetic products can have adverse effects including skin rashes, discoloring and scarring, reduce skin’s resistance to bacterial and mycotic disorders, and cause damage to the brain, nervous system and kidneys.”
The Minamata Convention on Mercury, which the Philippine government through the Department of Environment and Natural Resources signed in 2013, has targeted the phase-out by 2020 of cosmetics, including skin lightening creams and soaps, with mercury content above 1 ppm.
The said treaty, which entered into force in August 2017, has yet to be ratified by the Duterte administration. The EcoWaste Coalition and other concerned environmental groups seek the much-delayed ratification of the said chemical treaty, which aims "to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds."