Group alarmed at sale of mercury-laden skin whiteners in CDO
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – The environment and health advocacy group EcoWaste Coalition has asked the city government here to stop the sale of whitening cosmetics, some of them already banned for their high mercury content but which were still being openly sold in the markets here.
Thony Dizon, EcoWaste Coalition chemical safety campaigner, said they would request the city council to adopt an ordinance banning and penalizing the manufacture, importation, distribution, and sale of mercury-laden skin cosmetics, similar to the ordinance passed by the Quezon City council last year.
Dizon said they had tested various lightening creams bought from the Angel Chavez complex, Cogon and Carmen markets here and found them to contain a high level of mercury, a toxic chemical harmful to humans.
Lawyer Jose Edgardo Uy, head of the city’s joint inspection team tasked to check the safety of consumer products, said they would follow up on the EcoWaste report.
The Food and Drug Administration earlier released a warning against some skin-whitening creams being sold in the market but the environment group was surprised to find out that some of the banned products were still being openly sold in the market. Uy said they would conduct a surprise inspection within the week even if they had yet to receive complaints from users.
“We will not wait for complaints from the consumers. If the report says these products have adverse effects, we have to act,” Uy said in an interview Tuesday.
EcoWaste Coalition’s findings coincided with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory warning against whitening products found to contain mercury beyond the one part per million (1 ppm) limit set by the regulatory agency.
The FDA listed down Renow-D New Facial Cream Formula-One, Goree Day and Night Whitening Cream Oil Free, and Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene with SPF 30 Avocado and Aloevera among those with high mercury content.
Goree is among the products that EcoWaste Coalition tested and which turned out to contain a high level of mercury. Other products included Collagen Plus Vit. E, JJJ, Jiaoli, S’Zitang, and Xinjiaoli.
EcoWaste tested the products using a portable x-ray fluorescence device and found them to have registered a range of 125 to 22,700 ppm, which was above the maximum allowable limit of 1 ppm.
“To our disbelief and dismay, the FDA-banned skin whitening cosmetics are still sold over the counter in [Cagayan de Oro] as if these products are legal and safe to use,” Dizon said. “Health experts have repeatedly warned that mercury-containing skin whiteners are hazardous to health.” He said they were alarmed to find Goree still being sold in the city when the FDA already banned the product in 2017.
“After the side effects of this smuggled cosmetics from Pakistan became highly publicized last year, we noticed a drop in the open sale of Goree in Divisoria, Manila. However, it appears that [Cagayan de Oro] is (still) flooded with this dangerous skin whitener,” he added.
EcoWaste Coalition said the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) cosmetic directive banned mercury as an ingredient in cosmetic products.
He also said the Minimata Convention on mercury had targeted the global phase-out of skin whitening products with mercury content above 1 ppm by 2020.
According to both the FDA and the World Health Organization, the adverse health effects brought about by mercury in cosmetic products include kidney damage, skin rashes, skin discoloration, and scarring.
Symptoms of mercury exposure include depression, drowsiness, exhaustion, hair loss, inflamed gums, irritability, memory loss, nervousness, rash, sleeplessness, tingling of the extremities, tremors, and weakness.
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