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EcoWaste Coalition Reminds Filipinos: True Radiance Comes from Within, Not from Mercury

Skin lightening cosmetics

(Watchdog group backs UN campaign to end mercury use in cosmetics)

Quezon City. The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition, which has been tracking mercury in skin lightening cosmetics in the Philippines since 2011, reiterated its support to the global effort to put an end to the persistent production, trade and consumption of racist beauty products with mercury content that claim to whiten the skin and deal with other skin woes.

“We are one with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Secretariat of the Minamata Convention on Mercury in emphasizing the urgency for effective action to stop the harmful effects of skin lightening products with mercury and other hazardous chemicals to people’s health and the environment,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Coinciding with the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination on March 21, the two intergovernmental bodies said “using cosmetics to lighten skin tone has deep historical roots, spanning centuries and cultures,” noting “people with lighter skin color are still perceived as having higher social status in many parts of the world today.”

“Toxic beauty ideals are among the many effects of racism, with people worldwide too often feeling pressure to change their skin tone, putting health at risk, ” UNEP and the Minamata Convention Secretariat said.

“What UNEP and the Minamata Convention Secretariat said about ‘the color of beauty is the color you are born with’ is true and we agree with it,” said Lucero. “We can and we must challenge racist cultural norms and insist that our skin is beautiful as it is.”

The color of beauty is the color you are born withIn a report published in 2021, the EcoWaste Coalition observed “the seeming obsession (among Filipinos) for a fairer skin tone might have been influenced by the country’s colonial history having been ruled by Spain for 333 years and by the USA for 48 years.” It pointed out that “wittingly or otherwise, many Filipinos seem to aspire to have the whiteness of their former Caucasian masters.”

“Today, such a deeply entrenched craving for lighter skin tone is further enhanced by the beauty standards set by the cosmetics, media and entertainment industries, which tend to inculcate the notion that a white skin is desirable and can be a ticket to a successful relationship, life and career,” the group said.

As it pushed for governmental action at global, national and local levels to enforce the ban on mercury-containing cosmetics, the EcoWaste Coalition appealed to cosmetic manufacturers, as well as media companies, entertainment business and, yes, beauty pageant organizers, to “move away from white-centric concepts and ideals of beauty, and promote diversity instead, including the inherent beauty of one’s natural color.”

Recognizing the importance of consumer vigilance and action, the group urged the people to “shun chemical whiteners, embrace one’s natural skin color with pride and stand up to color-based bias, prejudice and discrimination,” and further reminded consumers not to patronize skin lightening products that may contain mercury and other hazardous substances like hydroquinone and steroids.

According to a social media card produced by UNEP and the Minamata Convention Secretariat, “mercury is used to block the production of melanin, leading to lighter skin tones.” Health effects include: “kidney and liver damage, neurological problems, (and) developmental issues in children.”

“Hydroquinone is used to treat pigment disorders by reducing levels of melanin in skin,” explains another social media card. Health effects include: “dermatitis and skin darkening, neurological problems, delay in growth, (and) possibly carcinogenic.”

Another social media card says “steroids are used to treat skin conditions, including eczema, with skin whitening as a side effect.” Health effects include: “rashes and pustules, hair growth on the skin, (and) infections.”

The EcoWaste Coalition will make use of the information materials developed by UNEP, Minamata Convention Secretariat and the World Health Organization (WHO) in its continuing campaign to protect human health and the environment against the adverse effects of mercury in skin lightening cosmetics and other mercury-added products.


References:

https://www.unep.org/globalmercurypartnership/news/editorial/tackling-mercury-pollution-and-racial-discrimination-jointly
https://www.un.org/en/delegate/minamata-convention-urges-ban-mercury-use-cosmetics
https://ipen.org/documents/toxic-expose-online-trade-mercury-containing-skin-whitening-cosmetics-philippines

EcoWaste Coalition
Let's make an eco-friendly, zero waste, and toxic-free Philippines a reality.
https://www.ecowastecoalition.org/