Mercury in cosmetics: Philippine city introduces new rules to protect public

By Amanda Lim

- Last updated on GMT

Mercury in cosmetics: Philippine city introduces new rules to protect public
Officials in Quezon City, Philippines, have issued new rules that forbids the manufacture, distribution, marketing and sale of cosmetic products that contain mercury.

The new ordinance, number 2676, was approved on November 19 by Mayor Herbert M. Bautista.

It was introduced by Councillor Elizabeth A. Delarmente and filed on July 10 with the backing of another 32 councillors before being enacted on October 8 at a session presided over by Vice Mayor Ma. Josefina G. Belmonte.

In a statement, said Lee Bell, Mercury Policy Adviser of International POPs Elimination Network (IPEN), said: “The enactment of this ordinance, I hope, will draw much-needed action to realize the scheduled phase-out by 2020 of mercury-added products such as skin lightening cosmetics with mercury above 1 ppm.”

Laws coming into effect

The Ordinance also targets other skin care products with toxic ingredients by barring the sale of cosmetics without the approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or without appropriate labelling.

Additionally, the signed documented prohibited the open dumping or disposal of products that have been banned, recalled, or confiscated.

These stocks must be returned to its origin, but if that cannot be determined, the Ordinance stated that they should be temporarily secured till it can be disposed environmentally in coordination with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Environmental Protection and Waste Management Department (EPWMD), FDA and “other relevant agencies”

Bell said: “National and local governments should take notice of Quezon City’s progressive ordinance and consider adopting similar measures to protect consumer health against mercury in cosmetics.”

Strict penalties

Failure to comply with these new laws will result in fines and even jail time.

For the first offense, violators will be fined Php2,000 ($38.22) and have its products confiscated. The fine goes up to Php3,000 ($57.34) for the second offense and businesses will face suspension.

Third-time offenders will be fined Php5,000 ($95.60) and face imprisonment of 30 days and the cancellation of business license at the discretion of the court.

Additionally, all those convicted by the court shall be required to render 30-day community service to be determined by the local government authorities concerned.

The City Health Department (CHD) was tasked with overseeing these operations and ensuring strict implementation with the help of Quezon City’s Public Affairs and Information Services Office (PAISO), The Business Permits and Licensing Office (BPLO), EPWMD, FDA and DENR.

In cooperation with PAISO and EPWMD, CHD was also directed to conduct an information and education campaign regarding the dangerous chemicals in cosmetic products.

A satisfying outcome

Environmental group EcoWaste Coalition, who has been investigating the tainted cosmetics​, said they were extremely satisfied with the outcome of the ordinance.

“We laud the Quezon City Government for cracking down on the illegal trade of mercury-containing creams, lotions and soaps that are marketed to lighten the skin color and fix skin woes,” ​said Thony Dizon, chemical safety campaigner of EcoWaste Coalition.

“We’re happy to have provided the City Council with relevant information justifying a clampdown on such dangerous products through our active presence in several committee meetings.”

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