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Editorial | Lead and Mercury in cosmetics

Online sale of cheap cosmetic products on Facebook has become pervasive, competing with established online shopping websites or apps such as Amazon, E-bay, Shoppee and Lazada. Products that promise to be the breakthrough in nutrition, exercise or makeup have made their way into the homes of many who patronize shopping on line for its ease and convenience.

Last March, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agents raided a cosmetics distribution company in Matina for selling unregistered beauty and skin-whitening products. It was found to be selling an unregistered skin-whitening product called Bihaku Aha Blue Booster with Blueberry Fruit Extract.

FDA Director General Nela Charade G. Puno, the seized products were part of the 34 unregistered and potentially hazardous cosmetic products subject of an FDA public advisory — No. 2018-167 — issued on May 3, 2018.

There might be more of this kind sold in the market.

Environment watchdogs have looked into products sold in the market and reported that it contained high levels of toxic metals such as lead and mercury. EcoWaste Coalition has repeatedly raised concern over the mercury and lead content in skin whitening creams and lipsticks found to be “above the regulatory limits of 1 and 20 parts per million (ppm), respectively.”

Using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device, EcoWaste found that of the 20 skin whitening products, 13 contained mercury in excess of the 1 ppm limit. Mercury amounting to 1,187 to 2,330 ppm was detected in Erna, Jiaoli and S’Zitang creams. These products, according to EcoWaste have been banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Considering that these products are dangerous to the health of the people, what should be done to stop the sale of these cosmetics in the local market? Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) is pushing for a more rigorous monitoring on compliance to product safety regulations. It also urged the city council to pass an ordinance to this effect.

EcoWaste and IDIS are also pushing for government agencies to “impose tougher sanctions, including hefty fines, jail time and business permit cancellation, against erring establishments and individuals, especially those who repeatedly engage in the unlawful manufacture, importation, distribution or sale of unsafe goods that can harm human health and the ecosystems.”

They maintain that the presence of these toxic substances do not only impact the health of individuals patronizing the product, but also harm the environment as leakage of lead and mercury are discharged into the wastewater and water bodies.

Consumers should be mindful of the cosmetics they are using.

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