Davao City Retailers Defy Ban on the Sale of Mercury-Tainted Skin Whitening Cosmetics
A non-profit watch group tracking poisonous chemicals in products and wastes chided six wholesale and retail outlets in Davao City for selling skin lightening products banned by the national government for containing mercury.
“We deplore the unabated sale of mercury-tainted skin whitening products by some cosmetic dealers in Davao City in brazen defiance of the nationwide ban on such highly injurious items,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
“Despite the health and environmental risks and notwithstanding the efforts of the Davao City Health Office in the past, mercury-laden skin whitening cosmetics are still widely available in the city,” he noted.
“To our shock and disbelief, the banned products are openly displayed and sold in the stores we visited. Vendors of such cosmetics in Manila seem to be more discreet and will usually not flaunt banned products on store shelves to avoid attracting undue attention,” he said.
As the health and safety of skin whitening product users who are predominantly women is in peril, the group wasted no time alerting Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte about the unlawful trade through a report sent to her office today via e-mail and courier service.
The EcoWaste Coalition notified Duterte that they managed to obtain 12 samples of mercury-containing skin whitening products from six stores in Davao City in test buys conducted by a visiting team from the Quezon City-based group last April 2 and 3.
Although banned by the Food and Drug Administration for containing mercury above the trace amount limit of one part per million (ppm), the group faced no trouble buying Goree, Jiaoli, S’Zitang and Yu Dan Tang brands of skin whitening products, which are imported from Pakistan, mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, respectively.
Subsequent analysis by the group using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer found all 12 samples positive for outrageous concentrations of mercury exceeding the 1 ppm limit under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive.
Yu Dan Tang Specific Eliminating Freckle Spot & Double Whitening Sun Block Cream with Ginseng & Green Cucumber was found to contain 43,700 ppm of mercury, Goree Beauty Cream with 17,800 ppm, Jiaoli 10 Days Eliminating Freckle Day & Night Set with 2,638 ppm, S'Zitang 10 Days Eliminating Freckle Day & Night Set with 2,537 ppm, Jiaoli 7 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set with 2,482 ppm, S'Zitang 7 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set with 2,277 ppm, and Jiaoli Miraculous Cream with 2,041 ppm.
The continued sale of mercury-laden cosmetics is a direct violation of Republic Act 9711 (Food and Drug Administration Act) and Republic Act 7394 (Consumer Act of the Philippines), the group said.
To put a stop to the illicit trade of dangerous cosmetics that threatens human health and the environment, the EcoWaste Coalition requested the city government to:
1. Confiscate the illegal mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics and safely dispose of them as hazardous waste in an environmentally sound manner.
2. Conduct sustained monitoring and law enforcement activities involving the city’s health, police and business inspectors, and in coordination with FDA Region XI.
3. Charge and penalize erring wholesale and retail outlets, including revoking the business permits of defiant establishments.
4. Raise public awareness about specific skin whitening products containing mercury and the risks associated with mercury exposure.
5. Promulgate a city ordinance banning the importation, distribution, sale and use of mercury-containing cosmetics.
As explained in the group’s letter to Duterte, mercury, which is added to skin whitening cosmetics to inhibit the production of melanin pigment leading to a “fairer” skin tone, can damage the nervous, immune and renal systems, and also cause skin discoloration, rashes, and scarring, as well as reduce dermal resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.
The discharge of mercury from skin lightening products into the wastewater can also pollute the environment and contaminate the food supply, the group said.
According to the World Health Organization, “the mercury then enters the environment, where it becomes methylated and enters the food-chain as the highly toxic methylmercury in fish,” warning that “pregnant women who consume fish containing methylmercury transfer the mercury to their fetuses, which can later result in neurodevelopmental deficits in the children.”
The EcoWaste Coalition procured the banned mercury-tainted skin whitening products from the following wholesale and retail outlets: Beauty Icon, Blitsy Beauty Cosmetic Trading, Fashions & Cosmetics, Mansion Chinese Drug Store, Wisons Shopping Center and a cosmetic store at the old building of DCLA Plaza.