• Sunday, July 21, 2024
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77% of Nigerian women under bleaching affliction – Report


The National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has raised the alarm that there was bleaching menace in the country.

NAFDAC also disclosed a global study that revealed that 77 percent of Nigerian women are under skin bleaching, the highest in Africa.

For this reason, under the marching orders of the Presidency (via the office of the Secretary to the Federation of Nigeria, SGF), NAFDAC launched a war against bleaching, starting with a public campaign for awareness.

At a workshop in Port Harcourt as part of training of 600 journalists in the media war, Anto Ebele, deputy director, took the audience on the NAFDAC perspective on bleaching, anchoring the treatise on the single fact that people bleach to achieve acceptability by making the skin lighter.

She admitted that its not bad to use certain drugs to remove dark spots on the skin but using it permanently is bad.

She said the quest for lighter skin has led many women to taking injections that turn them white in 48 hours. The danger, she said, is undeclared bleaching agents (ingredients) in cosmetics.

How bleaching creams cause cancer

Showing how bleaching creams cause cancer, Ebele said some chemicals inhibit the production of venalin (antiallergic, antihistamines for systemic use, antipruritics, antihistamines, anesthetics, etc, hypnotic, sedative). This venalin protects the skin against ultra violet rays that cause cancer.

Saying the menace has got to pandemic levels. The deputy director said even children are now included by parents in bleaching or toning applications.

It means the children will start early to face the consequences such as aging skin, burns, endocrine problems, organ damage including low sperm count, and cancer.

Skin industry to be $32bn in 2024

She said that the skin industry was estimated to hit $32bn in 2024, the fastest growing industry. It is trillion naira business in Nigeria.

This is made up of different but harmful chemicals that are involved in making cosmetics which bleach the body. They include hydroquinone (minimum should be 2 percent but when mixed should be one percent).

There are topical retinoids. She reminded the audience that mercury is banned but smuggling makes it avialble everywhere in Nigeria.

According to her, “Bleaching is like drugs addiction.”

Others include Ethanolamine (MEA, DEA, TEA), some examples of Ethanolamine related chemicals, Monoethanolamine (MEA), Diethanolamine (DEA), Triethanolamine (TEA), Methyldiethanolamine (MDEA, used to make soups and detergents, shampoo, etc.)

Saying humanity is simply dealing with chemical weapons, she said this includes ethanolamine found in soaps, detergents, shampoos, hair conditioners, shaving creams, paraffin wax, eye liner, mascara, eye shadows, blushes, make-up bases, and some fragrances.

Safe handling

Leanard Omokpariola, director of Chemical Evaluation and Research, treated ‘Chemicals and Ingredients in the Cosmetics Industry’.

He said NAFDAC uses 2,500 workers in six zonal offices with presence in 36 states of the federation as well as seven laboratories to keep Nigerian foods and drugs safe.

Read also: Plants that help your skin glow

Chemical weapons:

He sees the menace of bleaching as chemical weapon, saying there have been public concerns about safety of cosmetics. He said the effects on public health depend on several indicators including kind and amount of chemical Ingredients used in the formulation; time and frequency of cosmetics usage; personal skin condition; and environmental situation.

He also said cosmetics also concern weather, explaining that different cities have different weather conditions; Port Harcourt being humid and hot whereas Kano is dry and hot, Jos is cold.

He warned that it is important to know what ingredients are toxic and how to identify them. “Many chemicals such as methyl methacrylate used in nail products. A number of regulatory authorities have banned the professional use of methyl methacrylate in nail salons.

Still, they continue to be ingredients despite that they are known to cause cancer, developmental toxicity, reproductive toxicity, organ system toxicity, cellular damage, neurological damage, irritation, corrosiveness, and skin sensitising properties.

He said methyl methacrylate is used to treat nails and fingers: (It causes cancer and affects foetus in the womb.) It enters your mouth during eating and also gets into your food while washing things like rice.

Need to fear evil people:

He said two categories of evil people the society need to fear are those involved in drugs and cosmetics. “They can hide or under-declare the names or quantity of harmful ingredients in their products. This is the greatest danger.

They use deceptive names such as cocoamite or coramite, lauremite, etc, to represent very harmful chemicals to sound like cocoa-butter or such like. These chemicals do not melt but sediment or remain in your body until more and more come in to get to carcinogens.”

Formaldehyde is dreaded but some use ammonium persuafate for hair colouring. This causes asthma. He said beauty salons form big danger. “They use many products that are not certified or regulated. They even inject persons to change colour. They buy online and use on persons without passing through regulation.

Hydroquinone causes cancer and organ damage. There must be concern for cancer, bioaccumulation, organ system toxicity, formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines.

“Benzoquinone: Colouring lips, baby items, etc. This destroys the endocrine system. Diaxane, coal tar, butylated compounds: These cause organ damage.

“Phthalates: They have been found to have endocrine disruption effects, have been linked with endometriosis and early puberty in girls, and reproductive organ abnormalities and reduced fertility in males.”

He said this causes organ destruction, but this one is not much in PH but Lagos. Some of these chemicals cause early puberty in girls and reduce fertility in males, he added.

He warned that formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasing preservatives are found in hair-smoothing products, nail polish, nail glue, eyelash glue, hair gel, baby shampoo, body soap, body wash, olour cosmetics, and hair colourants and lighteners.

NAFDAC also warned about dangers of hair colorations, saying; “These chemicals contain heavy metals, high in molecular mass, very toxic, but used in cosmetics. (Heavy metals are carcinogenic in nature and adversely affect DNA, proteins, and lipids by producing free radicals that lead to severe health and environmental problems).

“Run from mercury, a heavy metal. It is the most dangerous metal. Arsenic chemicals: Most poisonous metal; Steroids.”

Way out: Be moderate in use of cosmetics
The advice is for people especially women to maintain their skin and change its colour. Whatever colour of skin someone has is for a purpose, he said.

He insisted that natural or organic products do not change anything because chemicals are the same.

“But natural cosmetics may not always be a better choice. For example, many natural ingredients can cause skin reactions and allergies, including lavender, tea tree oil, lanolin, cinnamon (and derivatives), citrus oils and various essential oils,” he said.


According to him, “Just because a product has chemicals in it doesn’t instantly mean it’s dangerous.
“Literally, everything is made of chemicals. So, just do your own research about which chemicals are dangerous and which are not.”