26 May 2022, Quezon City. In spite of a public health warning issued by the Philippine government almost five years ago, local dealers of mercury-containing “beauty creams” from South Asia continue to ply their poison cosmetics.
“Despite the explicit threats of regulatory actions and sanctions, beauty product stores and online vendors continue to sell with impunity the ‘made in Pakistan’ Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene and Goree Day & Night Beauty Cream,” stated Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition. The products are sold for as low as P180 to as high as P350 per box.
As verified through recent test buy operations conducted by the EcoWaste Coalition in 26 cities and municipalities, the importation, distribution, and sale of the said Goree facial creams persist, posing a toxic threat to public health and the environment due to their dangerously high mercury content.
Based on the screening performed by the group using an Olympus Vanta M Series X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device, the analyzed Goree products had elevated levels of mercury, measuring as high as 30,680 ppm. The maximum limit for mercury in cosmetics as per the ASEAN Cosmetic Directive and the Minamata Convention on Mercury is one part per million (ppm).
This prompted the EcoWaste Coalition, a toxics watchdog group relentlessly tracking mercury-added cosmetics since 2011, to alert the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and push for the strict enforcement of a directive it issued in October 2017 against the Goree products.
To recall, FDA through Advisory No. 2017-289 warned the public against the purchase and use of the said Goree products, which were determined by the FDA to contain mercury above 1 ppm.
In a letter sent on May 25 to the FDA Center for Cosmetics and Household/Urban Hazardous Substances Regulation and Research, the EcoWaste Coalition put forward the following measures to remove mercury-laden Goree products from commerce:
1. Reiterate through a new advisory the ban on mercury-containing Goree Beauty Cream with Lycopene and Goree Day & Night Beauty Cream, including the risks associated with mercury exposure, especially for women of childbearing age, and the consequences of continued use;
2. Request the FDA’s regional enforcement units to join forces with local government units in the conduct of law enforcement activities, including the confiscation and environmentally sound storage and disposal of Goree and other violative cosmetics;
3. Seek the cooperation of shopping mall administrators to ensure that stores and stalls operating within their premises do not offer for sale Goree products and other unauthorized cosmetics.
4. Establish the legal responsibility of the management of online shopping sites in relation to the use of their platforms for the promotion and sale of Goree and other unlawful cosmetics lacking the required Certificate of Product Notification.
5. Support the advocacy “natural is beautiful” as the safest protection against skin lightening cosmetics that may contain mercury and other hazardous substances.
To justify the group’s call for urgent action versus mercury-containing Goree cosmetics, the EcoWaste Coalition provided the FDA with the following market surveillance information:
— From May 20-21, 2022, the group obtained 22 Goree products from retailers in the municipalities of Los Banos and Sta. Cruz and the cities of Binan, Cabuyao, Calamba, San Pablo, San Pedro and Sta. Rosa. The samples had mercury content ranging from 26,340 to 29,370 ppm of mercury.
— From May 14-17, 2022, the group collected 31 samples of Goree products from dealers in nine cities in Western Visayas, namely Iloilo City in the Iloilo Province, Roxas City in Capiz Province, and in Bacolod, Escalante, Kabankalan, San Carlos, Silay, Talisay and Victorias Cities in Negros Occidental Province. The samples were found loaded with mercury from 22,320 to 30,680 ppm.
— From March 27 to April 27, 2022, the group found Goree products on sale in Baguio, Tarlac, Angeles, Mabalacat, Manila, Pasay, Pasig, Antipolo and Davao Cities. The samples were found to contain 26,250 to 30,410 ppm of mercury.
Also, the EcoWaste Coalition in September 2021 reported to the FDA the proliferation of over 280 product ads for Goree and other FDA-flagged mercury-containing skin whitening cosmetics in major online shopping platforms. To date, these non-compliant cosmetics remain easily available for digital shoppers, the group lamented.
“Vigilant enforcement of the Minamata Convention is needed to break the illicit trade of mercury-added cosmetics and safeguard the health of consumers and that of their families,” the group concluded.