An environmental health group has discovered the rampant sale of imported mercury-laced skin whitening products in Pasay City.
The products, which are not registered with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and are therefore not authorized to be sold in the local market, contain mercury above the trace amount limit of one part per million (ppm) as per the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive (ACD), according to the EcoWaste Coalition.
The group has conducted test buys on September 7 at the Baclaran Terminal Plaza Mall on Taft Ave. Extension, and Baclaran Bagong Milenyo Plaza on F.B. Harrison St. Extension, both in Pasay City.
According to the chemical screening performed by the group using a handheld X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, Parley Beauty Cream had 12,400 ppm of mercury, Golden Pearl Beauty Cream (gold box) had 11,400 ppm, Golden Pearl Beauty Cream (yellow box) had 10,100 ppm and Morning Face Beauty Cream had 5,254 ppm.
The products were manufactured in Pakistan as indicated on their labels.
EcoWaste cited that the FDA banned Parley Beauty Cream and Golden Pearl Beauty Cream (yellow box) in 2019 and 2014, respectively, for containing violative levels of mercury and for lacking the required cosmetic product notifications.
The other two products are not yet included in the FDA list of proscribed mercury-added cosmetics.
Aside from the four products, EcoWaste also found other prohibited products being sold over the counter in the said malls, including Collagen Plus Vit E Day & Night Cream and Goree Beauty Cream, both of which were banned by the FDA in 2017.
"We call upon the local authorities led by Mayor Imelda Calixto-Rubiano to assist the national government in enforcing the ban on poisonous cosmetics laden with mercury that can seriously harm users and even non-users of the product, as well as pollute the environment," EcoWaste chemical safety campaigner Thony Dizon said.
"Removing these smuggled products in the local market will also help in advancing the objective of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which the government recently ratified, of protecting human health and the environment from man-made emissions and releases of mercury and its compounds," he added.
Mercury, a poisonous substance that attacks the brain and the central nervous system, the kidneys and the renal system, the heart and the cardiovascular system as well as the endocrine system, is not permitted as an ingredient in cosmetics products as per the ACD.
According to FDA-issued advisories, "adverse health effects brought about by highly toxic mercury in cosmetic products include kidney damage, skin rashes, discoloration and scarring."
"Chronic use reduces the skin's normal resistance against bacterial and fungal infections," the agency also said.
Other effects, according to the FDA, include anxiety, depression or psychosis and peripheral neuropathy.
It also warned that "the transfer of mercury to fetuses of pregnant women may manifest as neurodevelopment deficits later in life."
As mercury-added products, including cosmetics, should not be merely landfilled or incinerated, EcoWaste reminded the local government to coordinate with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for the environmentally sound management of seized contraband cosmetics laden with mercury.