15 July 2019

Toxics Watchdog Group Notifies Mayor Lazatin about the Illegal Sale of Mercury-Laced Skin Whitening Products in Angeles City (EcoWaste Coalition Urges Angeles City Mayor Lazating to Protect His Constituents against Health-Damaging Skin Whiteners with Mercury)

An environmental and health organization has requested Mayor Carmelo ”Pogi” Lazatin, Jr. to initiate law enforcement action to protect his constituents in Angeles City from being poisoned by mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics.

The Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition today wrote to Lazatin to bring an urgent public health issue to his attention: the unlawful sale of skin lightening facial creams with high levels of mercury, a toxic chemical that is not allowed in cosmetic products under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive (ACD).

As part of the group’s advocacy in support of the Minamata Convention of Mercury, the EcoWaste Coalition went to Angeles City yesterday, July 14, to check if products banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to their mercury content are being sold in the city.

The Minamata Convention, which the Philippines signed in 2013, has scheduled, among other things, the global phase-out by 2020 of mercury-added cosmetics such as skin lightening creams and soaps with mercury content about 1 part per million (ppm).   The Philippines is currently developing a National Action Plan on mercury-added products that are targeted for phase-out next year.

“We managed to buy eight skin whitening creams, which exceeded the 1 ppm allowable limit for mercury as contaminant in cosmetics .  The items, which were all imported, unregistered and lacking market authorization from the FDA, were procured from stores selling beauty and herbal products in Angeles City with official receipts provided,” stated Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition in his letter to Lazatin.

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device, the group detected excessive levels of mercury in all eight samples costing P100 to P300 each.  A “made in Taiwan” Yu Dan Tang freckle removing, whitening and sun block cream registered with a whopping  55,100 ppm of mercury.    This product is among the mercury-laden skin lightening products banned by the FDA in 2012.

Also screening positive for mercury are Goree Beauty Cream with 23,300 ppm and Goree Day & Night Whitening Cream with 17,400 ppm.  Both variants of Goree from Pakistan were banned by the FDA in 2017.

The group also found China-made Jiaoli and S’Zitang skin whitening products being sold by unscrupulous retailers in Angeles City.

“In pursuit of the general welfare provision of the Local Government Code, we request your office to take law enforcement action to stop the trade of dangerous cosmetics containing mercury in your city.  Such action will protect the health and safety of your constituents and the environment,” Dizon said.

“We further request your office to please consider enacting an ordinance similar to what Quezon City adopted in 2018 that will ban the manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics in your area of responsibility,” he further suggested.

The World Health Organization has stated that “mercury-containing skin lightening products are hazardous to health.” 

According to the WHO: “The main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage.”

The WHO also warned that “mercury in skin lightening products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.”




13 July 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Backs Formation of BOC Strike Team vs Foreign Trash Imports

An environmental health and justice group opposed to foreign waste importation has welcomed the move by the Department of Finance (DOF) to create a special strike team within the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to prevent illegal waste importation.

The formation of such team, according to the EcoWaste Coalition, will complement ongoing efforts to revise existing regulations so as to prohibit the entry of hazardous wastes and other wastes in line with the presidential order banning foreign waste imports.

“Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez’s order to BOC to create such a team will be useful in averting the entry of waste shipments into our country’s ports,” stated Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“All BOC ports nationwide should have a dedicated group comprised of honest and principled women and men who will proactively act to frustrate the unloading and dumping of wastes from overseas into our shores,” she said.

“The efforts of Mindanao Container Terminal sub-port under the leadership of Port Collector John Simon in seizing  misdeclared waste shipments from Hong Kong and South Korea, as well as from Australia, should inspire other ports to be more vigilant against such imports,” she added.  

Dominguez issued the directive during a recent DOF Executive Committee meeting after BOC Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero reported that he had called on his counterparts in ASEAN member states to strengthen their law enforcement capabilities to prevent the region from becoming a dumping ground for hazardous materials, including garbage, from other countries.

“It’s time we put up something like an environmental unit in the Customs to really act on this garbage issue,” Dominguez said.

Considering the continuing threat of illegal traffic waste, the EcoWaste Coalition pressed the DOF and the BOC to set up the special strike team soon.

“As time is of the essence, we hope the BOC strike team versus foreign waste imports will be set up soon.  Its formation will be in sync with the presidential order banning waste imports,” Lucero said.   

Last May 6, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte “ordered that the Philippines will no longer accept any waste from any country” as confirmed by his spokesperson Atty. Salvador Panelo.

To further shield the Philippines from  the adverse impacts of the global waste trade, the EcoWaste Coalition called on the government to hasten the country’s ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment.

The Basel Ban Amendment, which only needs ratification from two more eligible countries such as the Philippines to enter into force, seeks to prohibit the export of hazardous wastes and other wastes from developed to developing countries for any reason, including recycling.

“We expect the DOF and the BOC to strongly support the DENR in seeking President Duterte’s  ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment,” Lucero said.

After ratifying the treaty, the Office of the President has to transmit its decision to the Senate for concurrence.



12 July 2019

EcoWaste Coalition Cautions Consumers Anew against Buying and Using Counterfeit Lipsticks

The EcoWaste Coalition has again warned Filipino consumers against buying and using cheap imitation lipsticks that may be laced with lead and other heavy metal contaminants.

The anti-toxics watchdog group issued the warning after screening lipsticks bought from retailers of counterfeit cosmetics in Divisoria, Manila last July 9 and 11.  The group employed a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer to screen the items for heavy metals.

“Consumers should not think that imitation lipsticks -- because these are 'branded' -- are harmless to use.  These counterfeits, as we all know, have not been assessed for quality and safety by our health authorities and may contain health-damaging chemical and bacterial contaminants," said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition. 

“The presence of high levels of heavy metal contaminants in the lipsticks we screened may be attributed to the use of low-quality raw materials and the failure to observe good manufacturing practices,” he said.

"Consumers, especially women of child-bearing age, should avoid these tainted lipsticks. Pregnant women who may ingest lead in lipstick through multiple applications each day can expose babies in the womb at their very critical age of development.  Lead is known to cross the placenta and pile up in fetal tissues," he warned.

"Exposure to high levels of lead may also bring about reproductive health problems such as miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, low birth weight, and birth defects,” he added.

Out of 32 samples costing P35 to P50 each, 10 were found to contain lead in the scale of 152 to 43,800 parts per million (ppm), way above the 20 ppm limit for lead as contaminant as per the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive (ACD).

Some samples also screened positive for arsenic and mercury, which like lead, are not permitted by the ACD as ingredients in cosmetic product formulations. 

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Administrative Order 2013-24, which bans lead above 90 ppm in paint products, also bans the use of lead and lead compounds in the production of cosmetics.

The following imitation lipsticks were among those found to be contaminated with high concentrations of lead:

1.  MAC Mariah Carey #02 (red canister), 43,800 ppm
2.  MAC Mariah Carey #02 (yellow canister), 41,100 ppm
3.  Naked Love #09, 25,600 ppm
4.  MAC Retro Matte #A08, 11,600 ppm
5.  MAC Zac Posen So Chaud #04, 7,523 ppm
6.  MAC Zac Posen Kinda Sexy #14, 4,626 ppm
7.  MAC Zac Posen Girl About Town #08, 4,532 ppm
8.  Revlon Matt Gossip Gurl #07, 1,232 ppm
9.  Revlon Matt Gossip Gurl #06, 242 ppm
10. MAC Zac Posen Angel #10, 152 ppm

According to the FDA, ”lead is 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.”

“Lead easily crosses the placenta, and pregnant women should pay particular attention to the different sources of lead exposure,” the FDA warned.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has listed arsenic, lead and mercury among the “10 chemicals of major public health concern” requiring action by governments to protect the health of children, women of reproductive age, and workers.

To prevent human exposure to lead and other chemical as well as bacterial impurities in lipsticks, the EcoWaste Coalition again reminded consumers to observe the following precautionary measures: 

a. Check if the item has the required cosmetic product notification by accessing the FDA website.
b. Buy from a licensed retail outlet and ask for an official receipt.
c. If the price looks too good to be true, the product is most likely a counterfeit.
d. Use less, especially if the product is not guaranteed safe from lead and other contaminants.
e. Don’t let children play with lipstick.


Information on lead in lipstick:
Information on arsenic, cadmium, lead and mercury:

Baguio City Mayor Benjamin Magalong Urged to Protect Consumers against Mercury-Tainted Cosmetics

A non-government environmental and health watchdog group has notified the Baguio City government about the unlawful sale at the Central Business District of smuggled cosmetics containing hazardous chemicals such as mercury and lead.

Through a letter e-mailed and couriered to Mayor Benjamin Magalong, the Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition informed the authorities that it managed to buy from various retailers 15 skin whitening creams laden with mercury, a highly toxic chemical that is forbidden as ingredient in cosmetic product formulations.

“As part of our continuing advocacy in support of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which, among other things, has set a 2020 phase-out of cosmetics with mercury content above 1 part per million (ppm), the EcoWaste Coalition conducted yet another test buy of such products that are being sold in Baguio City,” wrote Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner.

The items, which were all imported, unregistered and lacking market authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), were procured from beauty and health product stores at Baguio Center Mall and the Maharlika Livelihood Complex and from general merchandise stores located at Magsaysay Ave. and Rajah Soliman St.

Mercury ranging from 970 to 23,700 parts per million (ppm) were detected in skin whitening products bearing the names Goree, Jiaoli and S’Zitang that the FDA had already banned due to their mercury content. 

As confirmed by the World Health Organization (WHO), “mercury-containing skin lightening products are hazardous to health.”

According to the WHO: “The main adverse effect of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening soaps and creams is kidney damage. Mercury in skin lightening products may also cause skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, as well as a reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.”

“In pursuit of the general welfare provision of the Local Government Code and in order to promote the health and safety of your constituents and the environment, we request your office to do what is necessary to stop the trade of dangerous cosmetics containing mercury in your city,” Dizon said.

“Aside from immediate law enforcement action, we request your office to please consider enacting an ordinance similar to what Quezon City adopted that will ban the manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics in your area of responsibility,” he added.

To combat the illegal trade of mercury-added cosmetics, the Quezon City Council in October 2018 unanimously enacted the said ordinance that was subsequently approved by then Mayor Herbert Bautista.

The group’s latest market surveillance in Baguio City also netted eight lipsticks with high concentrations of lead in excess of the 20 ppm regulatory limit.

Counterfeit MAC Mariah Carey and Qianxiu Hello Kitty lipsticks were found to contain lead in the range of 167 to 42,800 ppm.

According to WHO: “Lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children.”  Exposure to lead has also been linked to reproductive health issues such as hormonal changes, menstrual irregularities, delays in the onset of puberty, reduced fertility in both men and women, and miscarriage.

The EcoWaste Coalition used a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device to screen the product samples for mercury and lead.


08 July 2019

Visiting Expert: “Give Zero Waste Solution the Chance to Untrash Our Planet”

A long-time advocate for the Zero Waste solution to the waste crisis plaguing the entire planet, the Philippines included, has emphasized the need for key sectors to assume responsibility to reach the goal of changing our throw-away society. 

Dr. Paul Connett, a retired British professor on environmental chemistry and toxicology, told a skillshare organized by the EcoWaste Coalition and attended by 140 members and partners that Zero Waste is possible and that many cities and towns around the world are pooling their creative minds and energies to prevent the generation and destruction of discards.

The said skillshare is the last in Connett’s busy five-day advocacy tour hosted by No Burn Pilipinas that brought him to the bustling cities of Cebu, Davao, Baguio and Quezon to talk about the pitfalls of incinerating waste and the benefits of moving toward the Zero Waste direction. 

“Waste is the evidence that we are doing something wrong.  Our task is to not to find more and more sophisticated ways to destroy material resources but to persuade industry and retailers to stop making products and using packaging that have to be buried or burned.  Instead of destroyed resources, let us give Zero Waste solution the chance to untrash our planet,” he said.

Connett cautioned national and local government authorities against watering down the country’s ban on waste incineration that is enshrined in two major environmental laws, RA 8749 or the Clean Air Act and RA 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act through the so-called waste-to-energy schemes.  

“Burning waste materials in waste-to-energy incinerators or cement kilns will not rid our planet of garbage.  Even if incinerators or cement kilns burning waste are made safe, we would never make them sensible.  The waste problem will not be solved with better technology, but with better organization, education, and better industrial design,” he pointed out.

He also emphasized that “three things are needed to protect the public from toxic emissions such as dioxins and other pollutants from waste burners: strong regulations, adequate monitoring and tough enforcement.”

“If any of these three essential requirements is weak, the public is not protected,” he emphasized.

To achieve the Zero Waste goal, Connett drew attention to the need for industrial responsibility at the front end (for example, to re-design products for the environment), community responsibility at the back end (for example, segregate at source, reduce, reuse, recycle, compost), and good political leadership (for example, innovative, visionary, corruption-free) to bring these two together.

Reacting to single-use plastics inundating rivers and oceans and the proliferation of trade in contaminated plastic wastes, Connett said: “Packaging must be designed for reuse and products must be made for a prolonged life and capable of easy disassembly and repair.”

“Industry should also eliminate as much as possible the use of toxic elements and compounds in manufacturing products such as toxic metals like lead, cadmium and mercury, as well as compounds containing the problematic elements chlorine, bromine and fluorine.  Manufacturers and retailers should also take back their products and packaging for safe recycling after the customer has finished with them,” he added.

Connett further outlined the 10 steps toward a Zero Waste Community.  At a glance, these are: source separation; door-to-door collection; composting; recycling; reuse, repair, and deconstruction; waste reduction initiatives; economic incentives; residual separation and research facilities; better industrial design; and interim landfills for residuals.

Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition, welcomed Connett’s words of wisdom and reiterated her group’s determination to fight quick fixes, such as waste-to-energy incinerators, to the country’s burgeoning waste generation at over 40,000 tons per day.

“With the participation of enlightened government, business and community leaders, we intend to pursue the Zero Waste strategy to untrash and lead our nation to a clean, healthy and sustainable future,” she said.

By Zero Waste strategy, Connett means saying no to incinerators and mega landfills, no to the prevailing throw-away culture, and yes to a sustainable society.


Dr. Paul Connett's Bio:

Dr. Paul Connett is a graduate of Cambridge University and holds a Ph.D. in chemistry from Dartmouth College.   From 1983 -2006, Paul taught chemistry at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY where he specialized in Environmental Chemistry and Toxicology.  Over the past 33 years, his research on waste management has taken him to 49 states in the US, 7 provinces in Canada and 65 other countries, including the Philippines, where he has given over 2,500 pro bono public presentations.  In October 2017, Paul was appointed to an International Board to advise the City of Rome, Italy on their plan to move toward Zero Waste. Paul is the author of the book “The Zero Waste Solution: Untrashing the Planet One Community at a Time,” which has a foreword by actor Jeremy Irons.  He last visited the Philippines in 2009 as guest of the EcoWaste Coalition for a workshop on the precautionary principle.