12 Mindanao Mayors Urged to Clamp Down on Illegal Trade of Mercury-Laden Cosmetics

PHOTOS: Mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics on sale in Mindanao (above), and the top ten products with highest concentrations of mercury (below).

A toxics watchdog group today urged the chief executives of 12 cities in Mindanao to clamp down on the unlawful trade of contraband cosmetics containing mercury that is taking place right under their noses.

In a press release, the Quezon City-based EcoWaste Coalition exhorted the mayors of the Cities of Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato, Davao, General Santos, Koronadal, Iligan, Malaybalay, Marawi, Tacurong,
Tagum, Valencia and Zamboanga to assist the national government in purging the market of dangerous cosmetics, particularly skin whitening creams with excessive mercury content.

The illegal trade of mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics is rife in most of these cities and are often sold in retail outlets such as herbal and beauty product stores, Chinese drug stores and general merchandise stores just a stone’s throw away from the City Halls, the group observed.

“The market surveillance we conducted confirmed the unrestrained sale of skin whitening products banned by the health authorities for containing mercury above the permissible limit,” said Aileen Lucero, Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“We appeal to the good mayors to seize the dangerous goods and castigate unscrupulous traders to protect their constituents and the environment from the toxic effects of mercury,” she said.

The Food and Drugs Administration, in line with the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive, has set 1 part per million (ppm) as the allowable limit of mercury in cosmetics.  Since 2010, the FDA has banned 116 skin whitening products for their mercury content or for being sold without the required market authorization from the agency.

To ascertain the prevalence of illegally traded mercury cosmetics in the country, the EcoWaste Coalition deployed its “AlerToxic Patrollers” to 50 cities in Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao and the National Capital Region from November 9, 2014 to February 2, 2015.

Out of the 355 samples of skin whitening cosmetics procured and screened for mercury using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, 316 were found to contain mercury above 1 ppm.  139 of the 355 samples were from Mindanao with 110 of the 139 testing positive for mercury.

The top 10 samples from Mindanao with the highest concentrations of mercury include:

1.  Xuefujiaolan Herbal Whitening and Embellish Classic Set (3 small jars) from CDO, with 96,100 ppm of mercury

2.  Beauty Girl Egg White and Tomato 6 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Whitening Cream from CDO, with 48,700 ppm of mercury

3.  Yu Dan Tang Gingseng and Green Cucumber 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence from CDO, with 48,700 ppm of mercury

4. Feique Cucumber Anti-Wrinkle Whitening Set from Zamboanga, with 25,800 ppm of mercury

5.  Zi XIn Mei Face Beauty Vegetable Red in White Series (purple and gold box) from Zamboanga, with 10,700 ppm of mercury

6.  Zi Xin Mei Face Beauty Vegetable Red in White Series (pink and white box) from Zamboanga, with 9,839 ppm of mercury

7.  Collagen Plus Vit E Day and Night Cream from Zamboanga, with 9,003 ppm of mercury

8.  Jiaoli Herbs Essence Whitening AB Set from Marawi City, with 6,758 ppm of mercury

9.  S'Zitang 10 Days Whitening & Spot Day Night Set from Zamboanga, with 5,092 ppm of mercury

10.  Erna Whitening Cream from General Santos, with 5,012 ppm of mercury

The high levels of mercury in these contraband cosmetics pose a significant health risk to users and non-users, including children and women of child-bearing age who are most prone to the toxic effects of mercury, the group warned.

According to the report “Beauty and the Risk” published by the EcoWaste Coalition, users of mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics may experience skin discoloration, rashes and scarring and reduced skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, while repeated applications can cause damage to the brain, the nervous system and the kidneys.

For non-users, the report, citing a US health advisory, said that “the mercury spreads from the hands of anyone using the cream to other things they touch (and) then gets into the air and anyone in the home can breathe it in.” 

General signs and symptoms of mercury exposure include abdominal pain, anemia, depression, diarrhea, heart abnormalities, muscle cramps, nausea, nervousness, numbness or tingling in hands, feet, or around the lips, pink hands and feet, tremors, and weight loss,



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