Green group finds highly toxic chemicals in counterfeit cosmetics

Sep. 13, 2019

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — A watch group warned consumers against supposed contraband and counterfeit cosmetics with high levels of mercury and lead being sold in several stores here.

In a statement on Thursday, the EcoWaste Coalition revealed that they bought dozens of skin whitening creams and lipsticks from various retailers in downtown last September 7 to 8, with prices ranging from P20 to P120 each.

After screening the products using a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) analytical device, the group found that the items contain mercury and lead above the regulatory limits of 1 and 20 parts per million (ppm), respectively.

Of the 20 skin whitening products, 13 were found to contain mercury in excess of the 1 ppm limit. Brands such as Erna, Jiaoli and S’Zitang creams were detected to have mercury amounting 1,187 to 2,330 ppm.

These products, EcoWaste said, were already banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to high mercury content.

Meanwhile, out of 100 lipstick products the group bought from various retail stores, 24 have lead levels ranging from 118 to 30,500 ppm.

They added that counterfeit lipstick products like MAC, Vivaglam, Dermacol, and April Skin have lead above the 20 ppm limit.

“Both lead and mercury are highly toxic and are not permitted as ingredients in cosmetic product formulations. The continued sale of cosmetics laden with these poisons, most of which are contraband and counterfeit items, is putting the health of consumers at risk and should be stopped,” Thony Dizon, Chemical Safety Campaigner, EcoWaste Coalition said.

The group warned that the two chemicals are highly toxic even at low levels.

The World Health Organization (WHO), has even listed both lead and mercury are among the “10 chemicals of major public health concern”.

EcoWaste Coalition warned that developing fetuses in pregnant women, babies, and children when exposed to mercury and lead can experience “developmental delays, learning difficulties, reduced attention span, language skills and verbal memory, and reproductive disorders.”

It added that both chemicals can also cause physical tremors, vision abnormality, irritability and memory problems to adults, as well as joint and muscle paint, high blood pressure, difficulties with concentration or memory, mood disorders.

Pregnant women could also experience miscarriage, still birth, or premature birth if exposed to mercury and lead.

The Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) also urged the City Council to enact an ordinance to restraint the trade of these toxic products.

They called for the authorities to regularly monitor businesses’ compliance to product safety regulations, and impose tougher sanctions against erring establishments and individuals distributing toxic products. (

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