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De Lima concern over smuggling of mercury-laden skin whiteners

Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed alarm over the continuous proliferation of dangerous contraband skin care products in the country despite government's attempt to stop the illegal trade.

De Lima raised her concern after watchdog group EcoWaste Coalition reiterated its warning that there is still an illegal sale of imported skin whitening cosmetics that are heavily laden with mercury, especially in budget shopping areas in Quiapo and Divisoria.

"This is a threat to public health. It's alarming that people who are looking for low-cost alternatives to the popular and expensive brands can easily be fooled into buying the cheap products without knowing that these goods can endanger their life," she said.

Based on reports, Thony Dizon, coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition's Project Protect, confirmed that the smuggling of mercury-laden skin care cosmetics persists despite previous attempts by the government and civil society to stop the illegal trade.

On July 22 and 23, Dizon led a consumer awareness campaign about the hazards of mercury in cosmetics by purchasing different skin care goods in Divisoria and Quiapo, and found that most of the products contain excessive concentrations of mercury.

Due to the disturbing results, Dizon called out the Duterte administration, saying there is an urgent need to ratify the Minamata Convention on Mercury which bans the production, export and import of skin lightening cosmetics with mercury above the required one part per million (ppm).

De Lima, a known human rights defender, said this public health concern is not something the Duterte administration should take for granted because it poses a serious risk to the safety of any person.

"Instead of simply focusing on his unorthodox war on drugs, the President can do better by remembering that there are other important issues that require his attention. Health is a top concern that often gets neglected," she said.

The Senator from Bicol added it is about time for the government to prioritize the health and safety of Filipino citizens.

The Food and Drug Administration banned over 135 mercury-containing and unnotified skin whitening products since 2010. According to the World Health Organization, exposure to mercury can have serious health consequences, including kidney damage, skin rashes, discoloration, among others.

De Lima is currently detained on trumped-up drug charges fabricated by the Duterte administration, but she continues to do her Senate duties while in detention.

Source: Senate of the Philippines

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