A toxic waste watchdog on Monday urged local government units to go after dealers of mercury-tainted skin-lightening products following the discovery that dealers of these cosmetics violated the ban and made the easily accessible in Cebu despite the global phase-out as stipulated in the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
The treaty, a global agreement that seeks to protect human health and the environment protects the people and environment from mercury emissions and releases.
The EcoWaste Coalition issued the call after successful test buys of seven banned mercury-containing facial creams for P80 to P300 each from cosmetic vendors in Cebu, Lapu-Lapu, and Mandaue Cities last September 26.
“We have gathered fresh evidence showing the unchecked trade in Cebu of unauthorized cosmetics contaminated with high levels of mercury, an extremely toxic chemical forbidden in cosmetic product formulations, in violation of national and international laws,” said EcoWaste Coalition National Coordinator Aileen Lucero.
“We will duly notify our health product regulators and the concerned local government units [LGUs] about this brazen threat to human health and the environment,” Lucero added.
She further explained that LGUs, in particular, “should go after the errant peddlers of these poisonous cosmetics and their suppliers.”
“City ordinances banning mercury-added cosmetics and public information drives promoting acceptance of our natural skin color should be pursued to fight colorism and mercury exposure via chemical skin whiteners,” Lucero said.
Among the banned items purchased were Pakistan-made “Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene” and “Goree Day & Night Beauty Cream,” Thailand-made “88 Total White Underarm Cream” and China-made “S’Zitang 10-Day Eliminating Freckle Day & Night Set.”
The EcoWaste Coalition said that at the 138 Wholesale Mall on Colon Street, at least seven stores defiantly sell the proscribed items, particularly “Goree,” in clear disregard of product safety regulations, the group observed. Stores selling these banned items were also spotted in Manalili, P. Lopez and Progreso streets, the organization addded.
The collected items were subjected to mercury screening using a portable X-ray fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, a device that can identify and quantity chemicals in a sample without sample preparation or destruction.
All seven products badly failed the XRF mercury screening test. The four Goree samples were found contaminated with extremely high levels of mercury ranging from 27,130 to 29,550 ppm. The two samples of “88 Total White” had 2,147 and 2,952 ppm. And the lone sample of “S’Zitang” contained 1,109 ppm (day cream) and 109 ppm (night cream).
Aside from being banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2017 for lacking market authorization and for containing mercury, “Goree” has also been tested and subsequently banned in Bangladesh, Brunei Darussalam, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore, United Kingdom, and the USA.
New Zealand, which banned the two variants of “Goree” in 2021, warned that “these products contain mercury, which is dangerous to your health, and on the lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.”
“It can also affect the development of unborn babies,” Wellington added.
FDA Advisory 2018-183 and FDA Advisory 2015-025 cautioned the public against the purchase and use of “S’Zitang,” which the agency tested and found to contain toxic mercury levels above 1 ppm.
In 2021, the FDA issued a public health warning on “88 Total White Underarm Cream” through Advisory 2021-1187, saying it has no valid Certificate of Product Notification and the use of which “may pose health risks to consumers.” It is also banned in the USA, particularly in the state of Minnesota, for containing mercury.