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Pasig stops sale of FDA-banned mercury cosmetics 

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Toxics watchdog EcoWaste Coalition welcomed the action taken so far by the Pasig City Government to curb the illegal trade in the bustling city of imported skin lightening products contaminated with mercury, a highly hazardous chemical banned in cosmetics.

In response to the report filed by the EcoWaste Coalition last July 26, Sanitary Inspectors from the Environmental Sanitation Section (ESS) of the City Health Department (CHD), in coordination with the Pasig City Mega Market Administration, inspected the retail establishments reported by the group as vending the banned cosmetics.

According to ESS OIC Dr. Nora Dancel and City Health Officer Dr. Joseph Panaligan, the concerned retailers “were ordered to immediately stop (their) sale and remove the products from their display counters/racks.”

“We laud the Pasig City Government, particularly the CHD and their Sanitary Inspectors, for their swift action and for causing the removal of the dangerous skin lightening products from store shelves,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.  “We hope the CHD can issue a public notice to inform retailers and consumers about the ban on mercury in cosmetics, the risk of mercury poisoning, and the ramifications of continued use of mercury-containing skin whiteners, as well as the inherent beauty of all skin colors or tones.”

“We expect the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to heed the CHD’s request for ‘parallel inspection’ as soon as possible so that the non-compliant products can be duly confiscated, disposed of and prevented from being sold under the counter or offered for sale elsewhere,” she added.  “The combined action by national and local authorities, supported by a vigilant civil society and mass media, will help a great deal in breaking the illegal trade of mercury-added cosmetics and in protecting human health and the environment from mercury contamination.”

Last July 26, the group wrote to Mayor Vico Sotto alerting his office about the unlawful sale of skin lightening cosmetics that have been banned by the FDA for containing mercury and/or for lacking the required market authorization, particularly in the Pasig City Mega Market at the back of the City Hall.

As part of its continuing advocacy to protect consumers, especially women and girls, against mercury poisoning via adulterated skin lightening products, the group carried out market monitoring on July 20, 22 and 23 in Pasig City, which confirmed the blatant sale of banned Pakistan-made Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene and Goree Day & Night Whitening Cream and Thailand-made 88 Total White Underarm Cream as per FDA Advisory Nos. 2017-289 and 2021-1187, respectively.

The group found the banned products openly displayed and sold in six cosmetic stores inside the Pasig City Mega Market, and in two other stores operating within the premises of Liana’s Supermarket and South Supermarket in clear defiance of the well-publicized FDA Advisories warning establishments not to distribute the errant products.

After receiving the information from CHD about its action, the group visited the said retail stores on August 12 and was pleased not to see the banned mercury-containing cosmetics on store shelves.  

Mercury, which is added in some skin lightening products to inhibit the production of melanin pigment, can damage the nervous, immune and renal systems, as well as cause skin discoloration, rashes, and scarring and reduce skin resistance to bacterial and fungal infections.

The ASEAN Cosmetic Directive and the Minamata Convention on Mercury prohibit mercury in excess of one part per million (ppm) in cosmetics such as skin lightening creams, lotions and soaps.  The Minamata Convention, in particular, set a 2020 global phase-out on the manufacture, import or export of such cosmetics.  However, some companies abroad continue to make toxic cosmetics laced with mercury for domestic and international trade.

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