Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) has maintained the ban on cosmetics that contain mercury and hydroquinone in Uganda, Chimp Corps report.
Officials said this was in line with its mandate of protecting the public and environment against harmful, dangerous and sub-standard products.
A previous survey done by UNBS indicates that 31% of the samples brought from the market and tested in UNBS’ internationally accredited laboratories were found to contain hydroquinone, contrary to the requirements of US EAS 377-2:2013 and most of these were imported products.
Hydroquinone and mercury are common active ingredients found in a number of skin care products, designed specifically to lighten or bleach the skin.
However, research has established that hydroquinone is a carcinogenic or a cancer causing chemical and it has also been linked to the medical condition known as ochronosis in which the skin becomes dark and thick;
The World Health Organization also states that mercury, a key ingredient in most of the skin care products, causes kidney damage, skin damage, rash and reduces the skin’s ability to resist bacterial and fungal infections.
Some of the imported products were labelled as containing hydroquinone, though written as Benzene-1, 4- diol; 1, 4 hydroxy benzene; 1, 4-Benzenediol or Benzene-1, 4-Diol whereas others do not declare at all, which is harmful to unsuspecting clients.
The 32 brands tested and found to have Hydroquinone or Mercury or both include;
Cosmetics are governed by a number of compulsory Uganda Standards including Uganda standard (US EAS 377-1:2013, which states that there shall not be any hydroquinone or mercury in cosmetics to be used for skin applications and that only 2% hydroquinone is permissible for cosmetics to be used on hair.
In 2016, UNBS banned the manufacture, importation and sale of cosmetics that contain mercury and hydroquinone.
The ban was effected after UNBS tested some cosmetics and were found to contain mercury exceeding the level permitted by the UNBS standards (US EAS 377-1:2013), while others contained potent ingredients like hydroquinone.
The sale of substandard products is an offence under Section 17 of the UNBS Act as amended 2013.
Once found guilty, a first time offender is required to pay a minimum fine of one thousand currency points (which translates to Shs 20M) and not exceeding two thousand five hundred currency points (Shs 50M) or imprisonment for a period of not less than two years and not exceeding five years or both.
Besides Uganda, Hydroquinone has been banned in many other countries like Japan, the European Union and Australia.
“UNBS would like to inform the public that cosmetics containing hydroquinone on the market have been smuggled into the country through various porous borders and are not cleared by UNBS,” said the government body responsible for developing, promoting and enforcing of national standards in the protection of Public Health and Safety, and the Environment against harmful and sub-standard products.
“UNBS also advises the public to be cautious when purchasing cosmetic products from the market. It is advisable to buy such products from reliable and reputable sources such as registered pharmacies or established retail stores and always look out for the expiry dates as well as the ingredients to ensure that there is no Mercury or Hydroquinone.
UNBS further encourages the public to report cases of substandard products on the market using our toll free line: 0800133133 or WhatsApp line 0713227580.”