Groups call for removal of phase-out exemption for mercury-containing eye cosmetics

(Groups: It’s high time to make all cosmetics mercury-free)

September 9, 2022, Davao City/Quezon City. Environmental health organizations in the Philippines are calling on governments around the world to end a partial exemption on the use of mercury for eye contour cosmetics such as mascara under the Minamata Convention on Mercury.

As it stands, only cosmetics such as skin lightening creams and soaps with mercury content above one part per million (ppm) have been targeted for global phase-out in 2020 under the treatise on mercury.

Partially exempt from complete phase-out in 2020 are eye contour cosmetics where mercury is used as a preservative and no effective and safe alternative preservatives are available.

“Data on the mercury content of mascaras sold in the Philippines and other countries provide a good basis for rescinding the phase-out exemption for these mercury-added products under the Minamata Convention. We urge our government to take note of our findings and seek the necessary treaty change,” said Aileen Lucero, National Coordinator, EcoWaste Coalition.

Atti. Mark Peñalver, Executive Director, Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability (IDIS) noted that “removing the exemption from the treaty will make the intentional addition of mercury in eye contour cosmetics a thing of the past,” stressing ” it is high time for all cosmetics to become mercury-free”. .”

Dr. Won Kim, Director of the Wonjin Institute for Occupational and Environmental Health (WIOEH) added, “It is a very frustrating situation for experts to detect hazardous chemicals, such as mercury, in cosmetics. . Toxic chemicals used in cosmetics need to be replaced with safer alternatives.

“It’s great news that NGOs are monitoring mercury in mascara and have found that the industry has largely phased it out and used substitute preservatives,” said Lee Bell, Mercury and POPs Advisor, International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN). “Having an exemption in the Minamata Convention for this use is problematic as it sends a signal that toxic mercury in cosmetics should be tolerated. It is high time to end this exemption and strengthen the convention to rid cosmetics containing mercury once and for all.

As part of the Cosmetics Without Harm project led by WIOEH and supported by Korea’s Beautiful Foundation, 57 mascara samples were collected by seven IPEN member organizations from six countries, including the Philippines.

Researchers at the Soon Chun Hyang University laboratory conducted the tests using a direct mercury analyzer (DMA), an instrument used to quantify the total mercury content present in a sample.

For the 20 samples collected by the EcoWaste Coalition and IDIS, the mercury concentrations detected range from 0.0021 to 0.0392 ppm, well below the maximum limit of 1 ppm for mercury in cosmetics under the Minamata Convention on Mercury and relevant regulations such as the ASEAN Cosmetics Directive. .

Among the products collected from licensed commercial establishments, as well as informal retailers, in the cities of Davao, Makati and Pasay and sent to WIOEH for mercury analysis, were Ashley, Beauty Model, Ever Bilena (3), Happy Skin, Hengfang, IN2IT, Kiss Beauty, L’Oréal, Mascara Volumizer, Maybelline (2), Miniso, Nichido, Shawill, Shudabeauty, Spotlight, Vice and YOU

Said mascara products were manufactured in China, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea and the United States.

According to a report by an ad hoc expert group tasked with reviewing Annexes A and B of the Minamata Convention, some manufacturers have switched from mercury-based thimerosal to mercury-free preservatives. Others have resorted to sterilization and replacing water with a gel substitute as an alternative to preservatives.

Mercury, a potent neurotoxin, is highly toxic to human health. Exposure to mercury can damage several organs in the body, especially the developing brain of the fetus at extremely low concentrations. Women, who are the primary target of mercury-containing cosmetics, are among the most vulnerable to its toxic effects, especially if they are of childbearing age.

Reference: (paragraph 48)

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