By Chito Chavez
As authorities are currently preoccupied with containing the dreaded novel coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, a toxic watchdog on Saturday claimed that errant dealers of dangerous mercury-laced cosmetics took advantage of the crisis “as they ply their toxic goods online.”
Environmental group EcoWaste Coalition scored the web-based trade of skin whitening cosmetics containing mercury, a toxic chemical that is banned in cosmetics, after detecting a proliferation of product advertisements in popular online shopping sites amid the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
“Online distributors of personal care products, particularly facial creams banned by the government for containing mercury, appear to be having a field day while the doors of discount malls and stores are closed due to the ECQ,” said Thony Dizon, chemical safety campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.
Dizon said that they “suspect these unscrupulous dealers are busy taking orders for delivery once the ECQ has been lifted by the authorities.’’
The Quezon City based group pointed to the numerous third-party ads in Lazada, Shopee, and Carousell for skin lightening cosmetics that are among those banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for lacking market authorization or for containing mercury.
Among the FDA-banned skin whitening cosmetics being sold via online shopping sites are Collagen Plus Vit E, Feique, Golden Pearl, Goree, Jiaoli and S’Zitang facial creams, the EcoWaste Coalition reported.
Dizon said that Republic Act 9711, or the Food and Drug Administration Act of 2009, bans the manufacture, importation, exportation, sale, offering for sale, distribution, transfer, non-consumer use, promotion, advertising, or sponsorship of any health products without the proper authorization from the FDA, while the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive prohibits mercury and its compounds in the composition of cosmetic products.
For the health and safety of their customers, EcoWaste Coalition appealed to online shopping platforms to take down ads for FDA-banned skin whitening cosmetics and for them to adopt stringent policies and procedures that will bar the sale of unauthorized cosmetics, particularly those containing harmful ingredients such as mercury.
“The decisive action by online shopping platforms to remove these unlawful cosmetics from their sites will help in advancing the country’s National Action Plan for the Phase-Out of Mercury-Added Products and the Management of the Associated Mercury-Containing Wastes in line with the Minamata Convention,” Dizon said.
The said mercury treaty, which the Philippine government signed in 2013 but has yet to ratify, sets a global phase-out by 2020 of skin whitening cosmetics, including creams, lotions, and soaps with mercury above 1 part per million (ppm).
The World Health Organization (WHO) said “adverse health effects of the inorganic mercury contained in skin lightening creams and soaps include kidney damage, skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring, reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections, anxiety, depression, psychosis, and peripheral neuropathy.”
Studies have also shown that increased mercury levels in the body have been linked with hormonal and menstrual disorders, infertility, and miscarriage.