12 February 2023, Quezon City. After successfully reaching out to the Thai health authorities, the EcoWaste Coalition has set its sights on getting the Government of Pakistan to take stringent action to stop the production and export of banned mercury-added skin whitening cosmetics.
Last Monday, the Quezon City-based group with the backing of its Thai NGO partners reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Thailand about the unlawful sale of skincare cosmetics with high levels of mercury, which the agency immediately acted upon.
Next week, the toxics watchdog group will seek the help of the Pakistani government to stop the proliferation of banned Pakistan-made mercury-added cosmetics in the local market, including in online shopping platforms.
“We will send a letter to the Ministry of Climate Change and to the country’s National Focal Point for the Minamata Convention on Mercury to bring the unabated trade of mercury-added cosmetics to an end,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
“In line with the Minamata Convention, we will request the Government of Pakistan to intensify its efforts to stop mercury use in the manufacture of cosmetics such as fairness or whitening creams, strengthen compliance monitoring, and tighten customs checks to halt the export of mercury adulterated cosmetics to the Philippines and elsewhere,” she said.
The Minamata Convention, which includes Pakistan and the Philippines among the state parties, has stipulated a 2020 phase-out date for the manufacture, export or import of cosmetics such as skin lightening products with mercury above one part per million (ppm).
Despite the lapse of the 2020 phase-out date, non-compliant cosmetic manufacturers in some countries continue to produce and export skin whitening cosmetics with high levels of mercury that even exceed hazardous waste specifications.
Recent test purchases conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition netted 16 Pakistan-made cosmetics with mercury content in the range of 766 to 58,400 ppm of which 11 had mercury levels above 10,000 ppm.
Among the 16 analyzed cosmetics were 10 products already banned or warned by the FDA Philippines for containing violative levels of mercury or for being sold without the required authorization from the agency.
The EcoWaste Coalition, which has been tracking mercury in cosmetics since 2011, singled out Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene and Goree Day & Night Beauty Cream, which are sold online and in some cosmetic stores despite the public health warning issued by the FDA Philippines in 2017.
FDA Advisory 2017-289 advised consumers not to buy and use the said violative products, which the agency tested and found to contain mercury above one ppm. Local government units and law enforcement agencies were likewise told to ensure such products are not sold or made available in their areas of jurisdiction.
According to the said directive, “adverse health effects brought about by highly toxic mercury in cosmetic products include kidney damage, skin rashes, skin discoloration and scarring,” warning “chronic use reduces skin’s normal resistance against bacterial and fungal infections.”
In 2020, the Bureau of Customs (BOC) seized and destroyed an estimated 400 kilograms of banned Goree cosmetic products, which were illicitly imported without the required clearances and permits.
“Despite the well-meaning efforts of the FDA, BOC and the NGOs, these smuggled mercury-added products are illegally imported and sold with impunity posing serious health and environmental risks. This necessitated our outreach to the Government of Pakistan. We hope they will listen to our urgent plea for action,” the EcoWaste Coalition said.
Publication Source : Journal Online