SUNDAY May 19, 2019
By Joe Lihundi
Tranquility News Reporter, Arusha
The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has passed a motion recommending to urgently banning manufacturing and importation of soaps and cosmetics containing hydroquinone across the region.
Hydroquinone is an active ingredient that is found in several skincare products that are designed specifically to lighten the skin.
The chemical decreases the formation of melanin, the pigment which gives skin a dark colour, thereby weakening the skin and making the body vulnerable to adverse effects to the bloodstream, kidneys and liver.
EALA member Gideon Gatpan Thoar initially tabled the motion urging the House to recommend to the East African Community (EAC) Council of Ministers to prohibit manufacture, distribution and sale of the products containing the chemical.
The lawmaker said Article 81(2) of the EAC Treaty recognised the significance of protecting consumers as a critical aspect of the cooperation of the partner states in standadisation, quality assurance, metrology and testing.
Mr Thoar said the move was also in line with section 19 of the EAC Standardisation, Quality Assurance, Metrology and Testing Act of 2006.
One of the objectives of the Act is to protect and improve the health and safety of consumers and the general public in the region.
“This objective has not been fully realised especially in relation to protecting East Africans from harmful effects of hydroquinone and other skin bleaching or lightening cosmetics which are widely imported, manufactured and distributed within the community,” he observed.
He also urged the House to recommend to the council to issue and publish in the Community Gazette an order prohibiting importation of all soaps and cosmetics containing the substance as stipulated in section 19 of the EAC Customs Management Act of 2004.
Another EALA member, Ms Nakawuki Susan Nsamba, seconded the motion during the debate saying the demand for skin bleaching soaps and cosmetics was growing even in Kenya and Tanzania where mercury containing products were banned long ago.
“Even some senior male politicians are knowingly jumping into the skin bleaching bandwagon,” she quipped as she urged governments in the region to urgently take action to avert unnecessary costs incurred in the treatment of cancer caused by hydroquinone.
“Many house maids are ignorantly affected by hydroquinone when they are asked to apply the cosmetics on the backs of their bosses,” she said, suggesting that a big penalty should be meted out to defaulters caught importing such products.
Ms Deng Nhial Gai said, in turn, that education was required for warding off a misconception widely spread by multinationals through television that a light complexion was beautiful.
“Banning by itself is not enough, people should be taught to accept who they are,” said one of the darkest regional lawmakers, quipping that she had never ever attempted to darken her skin.
The bloc has through section 18 and the Second schedule to the EAC 2004 Customs Management Act already prohibited importation of all soaps and cosmetics containing mercury because of health and safety concerns.