THE Environmental watchdog organization BAN Toxics urges local online shopping centers Lazada, Shopee and Marketplace on Facebook to enforce stricter measures to prevent sale of mercury-laced skin lightening products.
In 2019, Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG), an international coalition of public interest environmental and health non-governmental organizations, of which BAN Toxics is a part of, tested 158 skin lightening creams from 12 sampling countries. Ninety-five of which exceeded the allowable limit of 1 ppm (part per million), with mercury levels ranging from 40 ppm to over 130,000. ZMWG released the Dirty Eighty list to warn consumers about the product brands.
Several of the tested brands were bought from online shopping centers. Research in October 2020 showed that mercury-laced skin lightening creams are still widely available on Lazada, Shopee, Marketplace by Facebook, eBay and Amazon.
Mercury is a toxic chemical listed by the World Health Organization as one of their top chemicals of major health concern. Regular application of mercury-laced skin products can lead to skin damage, while long-term exposure to high levels of mercury can cause harm on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, with some cases leading to death. Primary sources of human exposure to mercury and its compounds are from dental amalgams, mercury-laden hospital devices, and artisanal and small-scale gold mining activities.
The Philippines ratified the Minamata Convention on Mercury on July 8, 2020, making it the 123rd country to join the treaty. Sale of products with mercury content is illegal and punishable by law according to the Chemical Control Order-DENR Administrative Order 2019-20 (CCO-DAO 2019-20). CCO-DAO 2019-20 also requires entities to provide liability insurance coverage separate from public liability insurance to guarantee payment for cleanup, damage claims and accidents should an issue arise.
“Lazada, Shopee, and Facebook need to take a stronger stance against mercury-added products to protect their consumers,” says Reynaldo San Juan, Executive Director of BAN Toxics.
“Removing mercury-added skin products from the shelves alone is not enough. These websites need to enforce stricter policies to protect consumers from mercury by requiring approval before sale of skin lightening products,” San Juan adds. “Policies and implementation gaps on protecting Filipinos from mercury must be addressed as soon as possible to prevent more people from harm.” (PR)