The East African Legislative Assembly (EALA) has passed a resolution calling for the ban on the manufacturing and importation of soaps, cosmetics and beauty ingredients containing hydroquinone substance.
Hydroquinone is a common active ingredient that is found in a number of skin care products that are designed specifically to lighten or bleach the skin.
“The effects of cosmetics containing hydroquinone are visible and widespread throughout the community,” said Gideon Gatpan, a lawmaker from South Sudan.
As per Article 81(2) of the treaty establishing the East African Community, which recognises the significance of the partner states in standardisation, metrology and testing, the lawmakers recommended the Council of Ministers for a regular review of chemical ingredients in beauty products as one of the compulsory standards in the region.
“Some of these beauty products contain up to 6% of hydroquinone,” said Uganda’s Suzan Nakawuki.
Kenya and Rwanda, like South Africa, Ghana and Ivory Coast before them, have put in place measures to regulate or ban the importation of the substance.
Kenya Bureau of Standards banned the use of cosmetic products containing ingredients that were considered harmful, including hydroquinone.
Though Tanzania banned the importation of the substance, there is still a widespread use of the substance as products are easily smuggled into the country.
Hydroquinone products are popular for their skin lightening properties but studies show an abnormal function of adrenal glands and high levels of mercury in people who have used cosmetics containing the substance.