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BAN Toxics recommends Facebook to promote a safe and mercury-free online platform

By: Baby Cuevas

Toxic Watchdog group BAN Toxics calls the attention of Facebook on the continuous selling of prohibited mercury products such as silver liquid mercury and mercury-added skin lightening products and urges to take down the posts to ensure a safe and mercury-free online community.

To raise the concern, the group has monitored 18 sellers of silver liquid mercury and more than 500 sellers of already banned mercury-added skin lightening products such as 88 Total White Underarm Whitening Cream, C Collagen Plus with Vit E Day & Night Cream, Goree Beauty Cream, Goree Day & Night Cream, Golden Pearl Beauty Cream, Jiaoli Cream, and Parley Goldie Beauty Cream are being offered for sale in Facebook Marketplace.

Silver liquid mercury is regulated under the Chemical Control Order for Mercury and Mercury Compounds of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), while the skin lightening products are banned with corresponding public health advisory issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) due to the presence of toxic mercury.

“Facebook should adhere to its community standards to make it a safe and mercury-free online platform to protect the people from harm and exposure to toxic mercury,“ said Thony Dizon, Toxics Campaigner, BAN Toxics.

In 2022, the Zero Mercury Working Group (ZMWG) published a study entitled “Skin Lighteners still online despite Mercury findings,” an investigation of Skin Lightening Products (SLPs) offered by over 40 online platforms and accessed in 17 countries. Of the 271 SLPs tested, 129 exceeded the maximum allowable limit for mercury of 1 part per million (ppm).

According to the study, despite substantial health risks, mercury compounds are frequently added to SLPs because mercury lightens the skin by suppressing the production of melanin. SLPs have received significant attention in the scientific literature—with countless studies outlining their negative impacts on health and well-being. The World Health Organization has also recognized that mercury—added to some SLPs—is a “major public health concern.”

Reiterating the policy on restricted goods and services (Hazardous Goods and Materials) as stated in the Facebook Community Standards, “To encourage safety and deter potentially harmful activities, we prohibit attempts by individuals, manufacturers, and retailers to purchase, sell, raffle, gift, transfer or trade certain goods and services on our platform.”

The group reported the concern through a letter sent to the Environment Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Department of Trade and Industry to investigate the findings and immediately conduct regulatory action.

According to the Joint Administrative Order (JAO 22-01) on Guidelines for Online Businesses Reiterating the Laws and Regulations Applicable to Online Businesses and Consumers, Section 6 and 7 reminded online businesses to ensure the protection of the public against hazards to health and safety and deceptive, unfair, and unconscionable sales acts and practices as it inculcates the rights and mechanisms a redress for online consumers.

“This should send a reminder to Facebook and other online shopping platforms such as Lazada and Shopee to strictly monitor and proactively take down postings/ads and suspend the accounts of online sellers that go against the existing regulations in the country, to safeguard the safety of the consumers from toxic exposure to mercury,” BAN Toxics added.

To protect the consumers from exposure to toxic mercury, BAN Toxics recommended the followings:

For Facebook users to check the product first before buying, review/verify the product to ensure that it is regulated and report online sellers of any prohibited and/or banned products.

For online shopping platforms to remove immediately all prohibited and/or banned products such as mercury products and ensure that products being offered for sale by sellers are fully compliant with laws and regulations in the country.

For the government to strengthen the e-commerce law to ensure that consumers are protected against hazardous products such as silver liquid mercury and mercury-added SLPs and take necessary enforcement action against online shopping platforms.

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