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A Toxics-Free Future


EcoWaste Coalition Drums Up Support for Urgent and Decisive Action to Ban Mercury-Added Cosmetics --- Forever

29 October 2023, Quezon City.  The toxics watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition appealed to all parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury to come up with united decisions that will lead to the elimination of all mercury-added cosmetics from the face of the earth, including e-commerce.

On the eve of the fifth Conference of the Parties (COP5) of the said treaty slated on October 30 to November 3 in Geneva, Switzerland, some 50 members of the EcoWaste Coalition assembled in Plaza Santa Cruz, Manila to call attention to the toxic threats posed by mercury-added skin lightening products and to advocate for treaty decisions leading to a global ban on mercury-added cosmetics and other badly-needed measures to protect human health and the ecosystems.

With Undas (All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day ) just around the corner, the event took a spooky flavor as the advocates dressed up as zombies to ask COP5 negotiators to “stop the mercury horror.”

“From Manila to Geneva, our message is a resounding support to proposals that will ban all cosmetics containing any amount of mercury, and promote effective measures at the country-level that will reinforce the ban, halt the marketing of mercury-added cosmetics and cut public demand for such poisonous products,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.  “We further hope that delegates will take a common stance against colorism,  tell citizens of the world to accept and celebrate their natural skin tone, and shun chemical whiteners containing mercury and other hazardous substances.”

"Mercury-added cosmetics such as so-called 'skin lightening creams' have been banned under the Minamata Convention due to their toxic nature and high exposure potential from being applied directly to the skin. These cosmetics are dangerous and should be the subject of international cooperation to ensure that they are not traded, advertised or used,” said Lee Bell, Mercury Policy Advisor to the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN).

“Unscrupulous manufacturers and traders in some countries are still making these poisonous cosmetics, with very high mercury levels, and selling them to unwitting customers through the Internet sales platforms and some marketplaces. This must be brought to an end through a proactive, concerted effort by customs officials, health authorities and others to avoid ongoing exposure to vulnerable populations.

“Aside from allowing mercury to penetrate the body through the skin, these facial creams also release mercury vapors, which users and anyone at home, including babies and children can inhale. This creates a two-fold exposure situation through dermal absorption and vapor inhalation,” said Dr. Sary Valenzuela from the Ateneo School of Medicine and Public Health.  “People living together in places with inadequate ventilation are at greater risk when they breathe mercury-contaminated air and touch mercury-contaminated clothes, blankets, pillows and towels.”

To drive their message home, EcoWaste Coalition members gathered at the Carriedo Fountain in Plaza Santa Cruz brandishing a yellow banner with a message that says “Keep the promise, make mercury history.  Ban mercury-added cosmetics,” a poignant reminder to COP5 delegates about the failure to stop the production and trade of cosmetics containing mercury and the need for urgent and decisive action.

Joining the fun event with a serious message were youth “Zombeauties” (a blending of the words “Zombie” and “beauty”) who donned crowns made up of small boxes of mercury-laced skin whiteners that the EcoWaste Coalition collected during their years-long investigation on mercury-added cosmetics that began in 2011.

The” Zombeauties” also wore sashes where the well-documented health effects of mercury exposure via skin lightening products are written, including damage to the kidneys, brain and the nervous system, skin rashes, discoloration and scarring, anxiety, depression and peripheral neuropathy.

After a short program at Plaza Santa Cruz, the group paraded “Zombie-style” through Bustos and Carriedo Streets wielding placards with various inscriptions, including a reminder to “stop equating beauty with whiteness” and a call on COP5 delegates to “ban the advertising, display and marketing of mercury-added cosmetics” and to “shut down the trade in mercury-added cosmetics.”

“Women, particularly those of child-bearing age, are especially vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of mercury and should expect to be able to use cosmetics safely without being poisoned.  It’s time to eradicate mercury-added cosmetics," the EcoWaste Coalition and IPEN said.