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UNBS maintained the ban on cosmetics that contain mercury and hydroquinone

UNBS Maintains Ban on Cosmetics Containing Mercury, Hydroquinone

posted onJanuary 16, 2024

Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) has maintained the ban on cosmetics that contain mercury and hydroquinone in Uganda, 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.

Some of the imported products were labeled 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.

32 brands were tested and found to have hydroquinone or mercury. The two are common active ingredients found in several 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. It adds that the other ingredient.

Cosmetics are governed by several 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 Shs20 million) and not exceeding two thousand five hundred currency points (Shs50m) 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.

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