Quezon City. The EcoWaste Coalition commended the Imus City Government for acting on the complaint filed by the toxics watchdog group documenting the illegal trade in the historic city of contraband cosmetics contaminated with mercury, a health-damaging and environment-polluting chemical.
Based on the information provided by the Imus City Government to the EcoWaste Coalition, six retail stores were formally told by the Business Permits and Licensing Office (BPLO) to immediately remove the adulterated cosmetics off the shelves and to dispose of them safely.
In the letters received by the errant stores, the BPLO reminded retailers that “the sale of such products violates national laws such as the Consumer Act of the Philippines (RA 7394 prohibits adulterated cosmetics or those containing any poisonous or deleterious substance) and the Food and Drug Administration Act (RA 9711 prohibits health products, including cosmetics, that are adulterated, unregistered or misbranded).”
To deter further violation, the BPLO threatened to close stores selling the banned products and or have their Business/Mayor’s Permit revoked. The 13-page report from the BPLO also contained photos of inspectors handing over the letters to the concerned retail outlets and store attendants dutifully removing the forbidden items without protest.
“We laud the Imus City Government for conducting law enforcement action to ensure business compliance to the ban on mercury-added cosmetics. As these dangerous products tend to reappear when nobody is watching, we encourage the city authorities to hold random store inspections on a regular basis,” said Ochie Tolentino, Coordinator, Cavite Green Coalition, a member group of the EcoWaste Coalition. “Sustained market monitoring will help a great deal in making Imus City safe from poisonous cosmetics with mercury content.”
Among those who took action upon receipt of the EcoWaste Coalition’s complaint were the offices of City Mayor Alex “AA” Advincula, City Administrator Hertito Monzon, City Legal Officer Leonard Martin Syjuco, and Business Permits and Licensing Department Head Jasmin Ramos.
“The steps taken by local authorities will surely disrupt the supply chain and safeguard the public health from the adverse effects of mercury in Goree and other mercury-containing facial creams that claim to lighten and beautify the skin,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition. “However, stronger global action is required to stop the continued production and proliferation of these dangerous cosmetics across borders.”
To recall, the EcoWaste Coalition bought five imported skin lightening products sold by retailers in Imus City for P150 to P250 each despite the FDA-issued advisories warning consumers and sellers against the trade of the unauthorized cosmetic products.
The group then screened the purchased items for mercury content using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, which detected mercury above the one part per million (ppm) limit under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive and the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
The two Pakistan-made Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene and Goree Day & Night Beauty Cream (banned in 2017) were found laden with 29,370 ppm and 28,200 ppm of mercury, respectively, while the Thailand-made 88 Total White Underarm Cream (banned in 2021) contained 2,687 ppm of mercury.
The two China-made S’Zitang 10-Day Eliminating Freckle Day & Night Set (banned in 2010, 2017 and 2018) and JJJ Golden Package Magic Spots Removing (banned in 2010) were found to contain 537 ppm (night cream) and 555 ppm (day cream), and 880 ppm (night cream) and 883 ppm (day cream), respectively.
“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,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Mercury in these cosmetics is eventually discharged into waste water. “The mercury then enters the environment, where it becomes methylated and can enter the food chain as highly toxic methylmercury in fish,” the WHO said. “Pregnant women who consume fish containing methylmercury can transfer the mercury to their fetuses, which can result in neurodevelopmental deficits in the children.”