Group urges Baguio to stop sale of poison-laden cosmetics

BAGUIO CITY – An environmental non-government organization urged the City Government of Baguio to immediately act against establishments selling cosmetic products containing dangerous heavy metals.

In an e-mailed letter to Mayor Mauricio Domogan on September 3, the EcoWaste Coalition reported the sale of skin whitening lotions and lipsticks that are laden with mercury and lead.

“Your immediate action will protect the health of your constituents, particularly women and girls, from being exposed to these dangerous substances,” wrote Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.

He added the steps undertaken by the city to remove cosmetics contaminated with heavy metals in the local market will support the FDA’s [Food and Drug Administration] campaign against the contrabands.

His group procured six skin whitening creams and two lipsticks from three retail outlets, Hayden & Jerry Herbal & General Merchandise, Jian Ling General Merchandise and Pao Pao Herbal & Beauty Products) on September 1 in the city’s central business district. The samples were later tested for heavy metal contaminants with a handheld X-ray Fluorescence analytical device.

According to Dizon, two of the whitening creams acquired by his group – Jiaoli and S’Zitang brands, were already banned by FDA for its high mercury content.

The test result indicated the creams to have 319 to 3,863 parts per million (ppm) of mercury. While the two counterfeit Mariah Carey lipsticks showed 11,200 ppm and 42,800 ppm of lead. They also contain arsenic, chromium and mercury above levels of concern.

Under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive, allowable amounts in cosmetic products for mercury, lead, and cadmium and arsenic are 1ppm, 20 ppm and 5 ppm respectively. Also, the country is party to the Minamata Convention on Mercury that requires member-states to phase-out cosmetics, including skin lightening products with more than 1 ppm mercury level.

Dizon’s group also noted the absence of “required market authorization from the FDA in the form of a cosmetic product notification” making the sale of the products illegal.

Last July, EcoWaste Coalition also screened Hashmi eyeliners (Kohl and Surma) they bought in retail outlets near the Golden Mosque in Quiapo, Manila. The items were put under the import alert of the USFDA in 2014.

Both variants were found to contain 100,000 ppm of lead. The test also showed Hashimi Kohl with 20,300 of arsenic and 6,915 of cadmium, and Hashimi Surma with 21,200 ppm of arsenic and 6,915 of cadmium.

Lead and mercury are considered among the “ten chemicals of major public health concern” by the World Health Organization (WHO) and among the 48 priority chemicals determined by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources that “potentially pose unreasonable risk” to the people. Exposure from these elements are known to cause serious health problems, birth defects, and cumulative amounts can lead to death. (Sherwin De Vera)