1. Reduce the Impact of Toxic Chemicals in Products to Human Health and Environment in Tanzania

Duration: 01-Jan-2013 to 31-Dec-2015 (Three years)   Place: Seven Regions

Project Summary:

This is a programme with the objective of reducing human health and environmental risks from chemicals in products and textile industries in Tanzania by 2015. The programme will target a total of 785,000 beneficiaries in the following regions in six zones of Tanzania namely Dar es Salaam (Eastern), Mbeya (Southern Highlands), Mwanza (Lake Zones), Tanga (Northern Zone) and Dodoma (Central Zone).The main activities will include inventory study and sample analysis, production of awareness raising materials, lobby the government to make specific policy on chemicals in products, conduct environmental auditing, capacity building for Envirocare staff, documentation of programme activities, monitoring and evaluation.

Success Story:

Aisha J. Simchimbey is a woman of 34 years old. She lives with her husband in Dar es Salaam region, Kinondoni District in one of the street known as Kagera which is found in Ndugumbi Ward. She is a form four leaver who completed her secondary education in one of the secondary school in Dar es Salaam in 2000.

Aisha was very famous in the community where she lives and to the adjacent communities for her work of producing and selling locally made cosmetics “Mkorogo” for more than 10 years. However, she was not only used to sell the products to their customers but also she was a customer and user of her own products.

It was December 2013 at Blue Pearl Hotel in Dar es Salaam where Envirocare invited chemical stakeholders from the government institutions, NGOs, health centers and cosmetic consumers and suppliers to participate in a workshop to share and disseminate the inventory study report to establish the status of toxic chemicals in Products to human health and the environment in Tanzania. It was during this workshop where Envirocare met with Aisha who was invited as a producer of locally made cosmetics.

Consumers and producers of toxic cosmetic products were given the opportunity to introduce themselves, what are they doing, their experiences in using cosmetic product and health effects they got as a result of using those toxic cosmetic products during the testimony session. It was during this session where we realized that AISHA is a real VICTIM of toxic cosmetic products. Her skin was very light and bleached by toxic chemicals from toxic cosmetic products. She said that, during the day time she experiencing tears from her eyes, not able to stay nearby the hot environment e.g. kitchen, developed skin rashes, dandruff, and feeling pains during the warm night.

At the end of the workshop, Envirocare were able to identify and register those consumers and producers of toxic cosmetics for training purposes. Thereafter, Envirocare worked close with them through trainings to create awareness on the effects of toxic cosmetics to their health and the environment. Aisha was among of the people who received training and she is no longer a producer neither a user of the toxic cosmetic products. She now uses natural cosmetic products and has engaged herself in the business. Her skin is healing slowly back into normal. Moreover and more interesting is that, she is now an activist who creates awareness to her friends and other people who are still using toxic cosmetic products. She has reached fifteen people so far. This is a great achievement for Envirocare works towards reducing the impacts of toxic chemicals in cosmetics products to human health and the environment in Tanzania.

Lesson Learnt:

Use of Media for Awareness Raising: Awareness raising through use of media (television and radio) for airing the documentary and audio programme on effects of toxic chemicals on human health creates change in attitude and behaviour of the public on the use of toxic cosmetic products.

Strong Cooperation with Government and other Institutions: Working closely with the government institutions like Tanzania Food and Drug Authority, Tanzania Bureau of Standards Fair Competition Commission, National Environmental Management Council, Vice President Office etc. have helped the project to be implemented successfully. Their support have given us a lot of experience to the community and they even participated a lot in awareness raising on the effects of toxic cosmetics to human health and environment. Transparency is very important in any working environment.

False Labelling of Cosmetic Products: Some of the manufacturer of cosmetic products provides wrong information on labelling. What is written on the label is not what is contained inside the products. This misleads consumers when purchasing cosmetic products.

Achievements

Awareness raising on toxic cosmetics using Media during the project implementation, Envirocare managed to involve more than twelve (12) different media (Television, Radio, social media and magazine) in Tanzania to reach cosmetic consumers both in urban and rural areas. This has widen and speed up the coverage to the large magnitude. The coverage of media in Tanzania is as follows: Using Radio media alone, the project has been able to reach (91%), Television (41%), newspapers (22%), social media (62%) and internet (13%) of the Tanzania population. One radio media (Clouds FM) has provided morning air time for free whereby they invited victims of toxic cosmetic consumers and doctors to raise awareness and sensitize society on the dangers and implications associated with using banned cosmetics and Mikorogo (locally made toxic cosmetics). Manufacturers and suppliers were invited to talk about the safety of their products. Some of the achievements in this project includes:

  1. Cosmetic victims have stopped using locally made cosmetics and/or banned cosmetics. 198 cosmetic victims have stopped making and/or use toxic cosmetics
  2. Envirocare officially registered to conduct training on sound chemicals management by the Government Chemist Laboratory Agency
  3. Increased awareness of cosmetic users on dangers associated with toxic cosmetics
  4. Cosmetic victims seek for doctor’s advice/medical treatment
  5. Producers of locally made cosmetics have shifted to alternative source of income. They have engaged themselves in a business of purchasing and selling vitenge/batiki and alternative cosmetic products.
  6. Status on chemicals in products in Tanzania established and documented

Awareness on chemicals in products and its effects to human health and the environment enhanced (Strategies used; Media (Television, Radio, social media and magazine), Training workshop, campaign and forums):

  1. More than 1,525 people have been reached direct; 1,297 women and 288 men
  2. Report on health effects of banned cosmetics in Tanzania produced and documented
  3. Chemical management committee experts established (Envirocare, TBS, TGNP,AGENDA, Muhimbili National Hospital, LEAT, NEMC,GCLA,LHRC
  4. Manual and documentaries on toxic cosmetic products prepared.

Challenges

  1. Inadequate knowledge on chemicals

The society has little knowledge on toxic chemicals which are found in products like cosmetics. This has shown in a baseline study which shows that the majority of respondents had little or no knowledge. Inadequate knowledge among cosmetic users to differentiate cosmetics and medicines (steroids)

  1. Lack of alternative business

Lack of alternative business by suppliers and producers of toxic cosmetics was a challenge during the project implementation. Both groups depend on the toxic products as the source of income for their daily needs. They were saying that, they cannot stop using selling the Mkorogo (mixed cosmetics) as such business is the only source of income to their lives. They depend on selling toxic cosmetic products and get money for domestic purposes and paying school fees for their children.

  1. Poor enforcement of the law

The influx and availability of toxic cosmetic products in the country is often caused by poor enforcement of the law by law enforcers. Though some of them enter the country through unofficial border, still yet the inspection, supervision and management of these toxic products is poor. This has resulted to the availability of toxic products in the market.

  1. Ignorance to chemical issues

The majority of people are ignorant to chemical issues. Most of the women think that, a person who has light (white) skin is reach and beautiful (referred as poverty of mind). This is what they believe and their attitude forced them to go for toxic cosmetics products so that they can bleach their skin and become white. They don’t know what caused their skin to be bleached that’s why the use unknowingly.

  1. Market liberalization

Has led to importation of different products which are cheap, toxic and some are fake. This is because there is a weak control and management of importation of products in Tanzania.

Project Gallery

Beneficiaries:

Men (20,000), Women (520,000) and Children (205,000) in Tanzania

Project Donors:

Future Plan:

Envirocare is going to use the good past experience and learning to improve the quality, efficiency and effectiveness of the future work. Envirocare will continue to use media for sensitization and awareness raising to reach a wider coverage and increase collaboration and cooperation with higher learning institutions, government institutions, health centres, NGOs and the public at all. This will put Envirocare’s work to be realized as an agent of change to the society.

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