EcoWaste Coalition presses swift removal of product ads for mercury-added cosmetics

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The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition for the nth time urged online shopping platforms to take down ads for skin whitening cosmetics banned or flagged by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for containing mercury and/or for lacking market authorization.

With the help of an intern from the Technological University of the Philippines (TUP), the group was able to track 100-page product advertisements for such unauthorized and unsafe cosmetics that were placed on Lazada and Shopee by third party sellers.

“In time for the 8.8. online shopping sale, our intern carefully monitored these hugely popular online shopping sites from August 1 to 6.  Much to our disappointment, hundreds of FDA-banned or flagged skin care products, especially skin lightening facial creams, are being advertised and sold as if these products are legal and safe,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

The group used the various advisories issued by the FDA as reference for listings of banned or flagged products to monitor, including public health warnings issued as early as 2010 to date.  Products covered by the group’s latest monitoring include Ailke, Aneeza, Collagen Plus Vit E, Erna, Golden Pearl, Goree, Feique, Jiaoli, Morning Face, Parley, S’Zitang, Temulawak and their variants if any.

Among those found widely sold online are Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene and Goree Day & Night Beauty Cream from Pakistan.  To recall, the FDA through Advisory No. 2017-289 advised consumers not to purchase and use these products , which the agency tested and found to contain mercury in excess of one part per million (ppm).

The ASEAN Cosmetic Directive lists mercury and its compounds among the substances not allowed in the composition of cosmetic products.  This regional directive sets 1 ppm as the maximum limit for mercury as a heavy metal contaminant in cosmetics.   

“The continued use of online shopping platforms for the unlawful trade of mercury-added skin lighteners is a brazen violation of the 2020 global phase-out deadline for such hazardous cosmetics,” said Lucero.

Cosmetics with mercury content above 1 ppm such as skin lightening creams and soaps are among the mercury-added products whose manufacture, import and export were phased out in 2020.

“We find it deeply concerning that digital commerce is being exploited to break the global ban on mercury cosmetics and ultimately poison human health and the environment,” added Lucero.  “It’s high time for government regulators to crack the whip and stop the use of online shopping platforms to peddle mercury-added skin whiteners.”

Meanwhile, the EcoWaste Coalition also urged the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to hasten the completion of their pending Joint Administrative Order restricting online trade of regulated chemicals such as mercury and its compounds.

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