EcoWaste Coalition Calls for Concerted Action to Protect Women from a Highly Preventable Source of Mercury Exposure

by janice jan
Women of the EcoWaste Coalition insist beauty has no skin tone and that women’s health matters.

As the International Women’s Day is celebrated, the EcoWaste Coalition pitched for a concerted action to protect women from a highly preventable source of mercury exposure: adulterated contraband skin lightening products laced with mercury.

“As we honor women from all walks of life for their indispensable contributions to societal development, we seek for a concerted action by governmental authorities, businesses, including online sellers, and consumers to put a stop to the persistent importation, distribution and sale of unauthorized skin lightening products containing mercury,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

“Packaged as facial creams for a lighter and flawless skin, the mercury in these contraband beauty creams marketed for women’s use can damage the kidneys, the nervous system and the skin itself, causing rashes, blotchy spots and giving skin a grayish color, as well as reducing skin resistance to bacterial and fungal infections,” she said.

“Women of child-bearing age are particularly sensitive to the harmful effects of mercury, and exposure to this toxic chemical during pregnancy may increase the risk of serious health problems for the baby in the womb, including brain damage, blindness, deafness, and congenital malformations,” she added.

Some of the symptoms of mercury poisoning include change in the ability to taste, difficulty to focus, changes in hearing, blurry vision, shyness, irritability, memory loss, numbness and tingling in hands, feet or around mouth, tremors and depression.

Lucero said customs inspectors need to do more to stop the entry into the country’s ports of contraband cosmetics manufactured mainly in China, Pakistan, and Thailand. “We need the help of the Bureau of Customs, assisted by the National Bureau of Investigation, to break the smuggling ring that is profiting from the importation of such mercury-laced cosmetics and their distribution across the country, including in online shopping platforms.”

Health product regulators need to intensify their efforts to ensure compliance, monitoring and enforcement of the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive, Minamata Convention on Mercury and related advisories from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “We need the FDA regional field offices and enforcement units to flex their regulatory muscles, in coordination with local government units (LGUs), to ensure that none of the FDA-banned products are offered for sale in their areas of jurisdiction,” said Lucero.

LGUs, as frontliners in the delivery of essential health services, including health information, play an important role in protecting women from these dangerous cosmetics with mercury. “We need our local leaders to keep their cities and municipalities safe from these poisonous cosmetics that can endanger the health of their constituents, women and children in particular, as well as pollute the environment,” she said.

Last March 1, the EcoWaste Coalition wrote to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to apprise it about the continued proliferation of mercury-containing cosmetics and the need for LGUs, in coordination with the FDA, to take action to protect women and others against these dangerous cosmetics.

The EcoWaste Coalition has been conducting periodic market monitoring to check on products like skin whiteners that can pose health risks to vulnerable populations and ecosystems.

From November 2023 to date, for example, the group monitored the unlawful sale of FDA-banned skin lightening products with mercury in several cities, including Baguio City in Northern Luzon, Angeles and San Fernando Cities in Central Luzon, Cebu City in the Visayas, Davao City in Mindanao, and Manila, Marikina, Pasay and Quezon Cities in the National Capital Region.

In addition, the group has been tracking the illicit trade of FDA-banned cosmetics in online shopping platforms, and promoting awareness and action against this blatant non-compliance to the law, which has been going on nonstop for years. (PR)

You may also like