It is still business as usual in Kampala’s cosmetics shops dealing in beauty products that contain the banned chemical hydroquinone. The Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) imposed a ban on the selling of all creams and beauty products that contain the compound with effect from April 1, 2016.
In a warning issued two months ago, UNBS warned that creams with hydroquinone were a threat to people’s health by especially exposing people to the risk of cancer.
In fact if the attitude exhibited by some city traders this newspaper talked is anything to go by, the standards body will have to double its efforts to enforce the ban, more so because the bureau has sounded a similar warning and failed to act in the past.
More surprising perhaps is that the standards body has demonstrated weakness in enforcing the ban by using a traders’ heart as opposed to a regulators whip.
For example, when contacted by this reporter from worried consumers about delays to enforce the ban, the spokesperson Richard Luyombya hinted that it is still too early for the standards body to be bothered by non-compliance. This is despite the fact that the standards body gave a grace period to the traders.
“We also know that such a ban cannot be implemented overnight especially when we are aware of the fact that some traders had just imported their stocks which they are struggling to sell off,” Luyombya said.
In fact even some traders are reluctant to remove or even to stop stocking the banned products.
One Maureen Babirye, one of the traders dealing in bleaching products operating on Grand Corner Building in Kampala said: “Yes, we heard the ban but we believe UNBS only talked as they have talked before and traders have continued with their business as usual on bleaching products.”
Other traders accuse UNBS of failure to prevail over importers of the condemned products which they say will make it difficult for them to mop out the banned products.
Shamim Nakato, a dealer in the banned products told The Sunrise that: “As long as those bleaching products continued being imported into the country, it is hard to stop us retailers from availing them to our customers.”
The list of products containing the banned chemical is quit long and includes products from some reputable companies. Some of the commonest hydroquinone bleaching products in the Ugandan market includes Caro Light, Dodo White up, Neutroline, H20 Fast action and Zikusooka cream, a locally manufactured one among others.
The growing demand for bleaching among Ugandans has not made it any easier for NBS regarding the ban on bleaching.
According to Maggie Kayemba, a beautician at covenant salon in Kawempe Division, the desire for bleaching arises from the perception among women that men prefer light skinned women to their dark skinned counterparts.
“As long as men will continue exhibiting their preference for light, the dark skinned one helplessly feel so insecure that they automatically resort to lightening creams for bleaching.” Kayemba said.