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Zambia seeks to ban skin bleaching products

THE Zambia Environmental Management Authority (ZEMA) has come up with a project that may see the banning of skin bleaching creams in Zambia.

Stakeholders last week met for an inception workshop for the project “Strengthening the institutional capacity for Zambia” to implement the obligations of the Minamata Convention by Reducing the Presence of Mercury in Vulnerable Populations.

Stakeholders present included representatives from various government ministries and departments, academia, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

During the meeting, it was disclosed that mercury concentrations in certain imported lightening creams and soaps were as high as 2000ppm (parts per million), much beyond the recommended safe threshold of 1ppm.

It was also noted that with the development of locally produced lightening creams and soaps, there was a need for more research on the use and quantities of mercury in these products.

A steering committee was formed to, among other things, assess the degree of usage of mercury-added products, establish a strategy for their phase-out, and raise public awareness.

Speaking at the event, ZEMA Acting Director-General Simon Mulenga Mwansa stated that the project was the first of its kind aimed at tackling the adverse effects of mercury on human health and the environment.

Mwansa said it is imperative that strategies to identify and protect populations at risk of mercury exposure are not only developed but implemented, and one such strategy is the phase-out of mercury-added products such as cosmetics.

Through the Zambia Medicines Regulatory Authority (ZAMRA), a statutory instrument to regulate the acceptable quantities of mercury in cosmetics is being developed.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health stated that it had instituted a programme to phase-out mercury-containing equipment in health care institutions, such as old thermometers and sphygmomanometers (BP machines), as well as dental amalgam.

  • Zambian Observer

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