EcoWaste coalition sounds alarm over lead-containing eyeliners

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After procuring and screening samples from retailers in Manila and Pasay Cities, the EcoWaste Coalition advised consumers to stop using a type of eyeliner containing extreme amounts of lead, a toxic chemical.

The advocacy group for a zero waste and toxics-free society revealed that despite being banned or recalled in Australia, Germany and the USA, eye cosmetic Hashmi Kohl Aswad from Pakistan are being sold for P100 to P150 per unit by uninformed retailers.  The product has no market authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“This toxic eye cosmetic poses a clear and present danger to consumers, especially to children and women, due to its extreme lead content,” said Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition.  “As such, this product should be immediately withdrawn from the market and safely disposed of as hazardous waste.”

A South Asian specialty store with branches in Makati, Manila, Marikina and Quezon Cities has already taken Hashmi eyeliners off the shelves after being notified by the EcoWaste Coalition about its findings.

Using an X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analyzer, the group detected dangerously high concentrations of lead exceeding 100,000 parts per million (ppm) in samples of Hashmi eyeliners, way above the 20 ppm limit under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive (ACD).  Aside from lead, high levels of cadmium and arsenic were likewise detected.

Arsenic, cadmium and lead are not allowed as ingredients in cosmetic product formulations as per the ACD.  These heavy metals are also listed among the 48 priority chemicals that the Department of Environment and Natural Resources “has determined to potentially pose unreasonable risk to public health, workplace and the environment.”

An Australian product recall advisory for Hashmi eyeliners warned that “exposure to lead can result in acute (short term) and chronic (long term) poisoning,” emphasizing “adults and children can be affected, but the symptoms are most severe in children and babies of women exposed while they were pregnant.” It pointed out that “poisoning can occur after a single exposure.”

The US FDA has tagged “kohl” and similar products as “illegal color additives,” warning “lead, usually in the form of lead sulfide, sometimes accounts for more than half the weight of kohl products.” Among the effects associated with high levels of lead exposure, according to the agency, are anemia, kidney problems, and neurological damage that may include seizures, coma, and death.

Echoing the advice of the US FDA, the EcoWaste Coalition urged those who have bought and used kohl and similar eye cosmetics to stop using the product at once and seek doctor’s advice for a lead poisoning test.  

The group will request the country‘s FDA to issue a public health warning and to go after the local distributors of unauthorized kohl eye cosmetics.