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Groups warn vs skin whiteners with mercury

MANILA, Philippines — Consumer and chemical safety groups have warned the public against the proliferation of mercury-containing skin whitening products in the market and urged the government to go after the importers, distributors, and retailers of these toxic cosmetics.

Laban Konsyumer Inc. and the EcoWaste Coalition said test buys conducted from Sept. 16 to 21 covering 12 cities in Metro Manila and the provinces of Batangas, Bulacan, Laguna, Pampanga and Rizal proved the proliferation of mercury-laden skin lightening products in the market.

Out of the 35 products bought from P60 to P240 each and screened for mercury using an x-ray fluorescence device, 33 were found to contain mercury up to 46,000 part per million (ppm).

“Contraband cosmetics containing mercury continue to be sold in several beauty product and Chinese medicine stores with their importers, distributors and retailers brazenly doing it with impunity.  Some retailers even give official receipts for illegal purchases,” said Thony Dizon, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition’s Project Protect.

“While the Minamata Convention sets a 2020 phase-out date for mercury-containing skin lightening creams and soaps, Southeast Asian countries, including the Philippines, ban mercury in excess of 1 ppm under the heavy metal limits of the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive that were adopted in 2007,” Dizon added.

With the results of their test buys, the EcoWaste Coalition and Laban Konsyumer urged the government to crack down on smugglers through effective law enforcement activities, citing the right of consumers to be protected against hazards to health and safety as guaranteed by the Consumer Act of the Philippines.

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“We urge the authorities to prosecute those behind the illicit trade of mercury-containing skin whiteners and other cosmetics without the prerequisite product notifications.  Punishing the culprits to the fullest extent of Republic Act 9711 will send a strong message that our country is serious about protecting our consumers against mercury exposure via cosmetic use,” Laban Konsyumer president Victorio Dimagiba said.

Both groups also appealed to the governments of China, Taiwan, Pakistan and others where the mercury-containing cosmetic imports are coming from to collaborate with the Philippine authorities to halt the illegal trade.

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