An advocacy group raised the alarm against the sale of cosmetics in the Philippines from Thailand that is contaminated with high concentrations of mercury.
EcoWaste Coalition, an advocacy group for a zero waste and toxics-free society, identified at least eight cosmetic products from Thailand with high concentrations of mercury of up to 44,540 parts per million (ppm), way above the legal limit of 1 ppm.
The group, which has been tracking the unlawful trade in mercury-added cosmetics since 2011, pushed for immediate action by health product and customs regulators to stop the illicit trade after detecting mercury in specific components of the eight Thai skincare sets sold by local online sellers.
Found contaminated with mercury through X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) screening were:
- Lady Gold Seaweed Gluta/Super Gluta Brightening with 44,540 ppm (beige cream);
- Five variants of Dr. Yanhee Facial Creams with 19,200 ppm (purple cream), 19,000 ppm (green cream), 11,830 ppm (pink cream), 9,460 ppm (purple cream), and 8,600 ppm (burnt orange cream);
- White Nano with 15,900 ppm (yellow cream); and
- Meyyong Seaweeds Super Whitening with 3,784 ppm (green cream).
“We urge both the Philippines and Thailand to take urgent measures to stop the manufacture, import or export of cosmetics containing mercury,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.
Both countries are member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury.
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Both countries, she said, have the obligation to comply with the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive (ACD) and the Minamata Convention.
Under the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive (ACD), member states agreed to ban mercury and its compounds as part of the composition of cosmetic products and set a maximum limit of 1 ppm for mercury as a heavy metal contaminant in cosmetics.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury, which Thailand acceded to in 2017 and which the Philippines ratified in 2020, stipulated a phase-out deadline of 2020 after which the manufacture, import, or export of cosmetics with mercury content above 1 ppm shall not be allowed.
“We expect concerned health and customs authorities to ramp up actions that will protect human health and the ecosystems from mercury use in cosmetics,” she added.
The World Health Organization (WHO) cited some adverse health effects of the inorganic mercury contained in skin-lightening creams and soaps include, namely:
- kidney damage
- skin rashes
- skin discoloration and scarring
- reduction in the skin’s resistance to bacterial and fungal infections
- peripheral neuropathy
“Mercury in soaps, creams, and other cosmetic products is eventually discharged into wastewater. The mercury then enters the environment, where it becomes methylated and can enter the food chain as highly toxic methylmercury in fish,” WHO said
Pregnant women who eat fish contaminated with methylmercury can transfer the mercury to their fetuses, which will result in neurodevelopmental deficits in the children, the UN body said.
To help in preventing mercury contamination of the human body and the environment, the EcoWaste Coalition pressed parties to the Minamata Convention to strengthen the treaty implementation such as by tightening customs controls, intensifying market surveillance, including in online shopping platforms, and charging violators of the ban on mercury-added cosmetics.
The group also called on consumers to reject chemical skin whiteners such as those containing mercury and hydroquinone and to simply love their natural skin tone, emphasizing “whatever the color of your skin, it’s naturally beautiful.” (amm/ Ecowaste Coalition)
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