MANILA -- That sweet kiss on Valentine's Day could spell trouble.
Environmental watchdog EcoWaste Coalition gave a pre-Valentine warning against lipstick products that may be hazardous to one's health because of high levels of chemicals like lead, mercury and arsenic.
"These chemicals may be absorbed or ingested in the body. Nakakalason pag nakakakin, nahahalikan... parang lasong halik," said Aileen Lucero, national coordinator of the EcoWaste Coalition.
Lucero added that the effect of the chemicals does not have to be instant but may be seen after long term exposure.
The group screened 70 pieces of lipsticks costing P7 to P80 each that were purchased last week from shops in Divisoria, Quiapo, Manila, and Baclaran.
The samples were tested for toxic metals with a portable X-ray fluorescence device.
The EcoWaste Coalition reported that 27 of the 70 samples of lipstick, or equivalent to 39 percent, were found to contain one or more heavy metals beyond the allowable limit.
The allowable limit for lead as provided under the ASEAN Cosmetics Directives is 20 parts per million (ppm), but the EcoWaste Coalition was able to detect up to 18,500 ppm.
One ppm is the allowable limit for mercury but up to 90 ppm was detected by the group, while up to 497 ppm was detected for arsenic when the allowable limit is only up to 5 ppm.
The lipsticks that were detected with the highest level of lead were a variety of products from Baolishi, Monaliza, and Kiss Beauty. The highest level of mercury were found in Popa, Kaixi Beauty, and Chanleevi, while high levels of arsenic were found in Baolishi.
Dr. Rosalina Nadela, president of the Philippine Dermatological Society (PDS), said the presence of toxic lead in cosmetics is not new.
She warned that it should stay within the allowable limit that is considered safe.
"Lead gives lipstick its color. May acceptable amount of lead. Ang pinapayagan ay 20 ppm. Talagang nasa labas ng bibig, kaya very minimal ingestion. Hindi naman nakakaharm especially if it's a reliable brand," said Nadela.
Nadela added that she is happy that EcoWaste is creating awareness about toxic chemicals in cosmetics like lipstick.
"Delikado sa katawan ang heavy metal poisoning. Pwede kang mahilo, nagkaka-seizures. It may lead to coma and sometimes even death," she said.
Meanwhile, Lucero also noted that mercury and arsenic are known carcinogens. She warned that mercury also has toxic effects on pregnant women which can affect brain development of the fetus.
Exposure to arsenic over a long period of time may result to skin lesions, diabetes, cardio diseases, peripheral neuropathy and cancer, she said.
Joining EcoWaste Coalition in its campaign against toxic lipsticks are Miss Philippines-Earth 2013 Angelee Delos Reyes and Miss Philippines-Fire 2013 Alma Cabasal.
Both beauty queens advised women to make sure they use safe lipstick.
"Make sure [Food and Drug Administration] approved, may branding, product details, manufacturer etc," Delos Reyes said.
"Nakakatakot siya honestly, hindi mo alam ang effect 5-10 years from now," said Cabasal.