Covid 19: Fake, substandard and risky hand sanitizers selling in Nairobi

Many of the hand sanitizers being sold in Nairobi contain chemicals known to trigger allergies and skin injuries.

A big number has also been confirmed as substandard, counterfeit and not conforming to World Health Organisation’s recommended formulations.

Of 66 samples collected in Nairobi, many contain perfumes and fragrances linked to allergies and contacts dermatitis or itchy rashes.

Harmful ingredients

Of concern, a study in the current Pharmaceutical Journal of Kenya, says most of the potentially harmful ingredients are not named in the labels as required.

The journal is published by the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya the professional body for Kenya’s pharmacists.

“Consumers prone to contact dermatitis and allergic reactions should be aware of the widespread use of fragrances in hand sanitizers sold across Nairobi,” warns the study.

To protect users, local and international regulators require all such ingredients be declared on the label as recommended with clarity and no ambiguity.

This information, the report says will enable users to make informed decisions which are especially critical for persons who need to avoid certain products for medical or personal reasons.

“It is especially crucial for a product that is being extensively used by children.”

“The use of non specific names, terms or abbreviations for ingredients used in the products should not be permitted,” says the study.

None recommended formulations

All manufacturers of the sampled products, the findings indicate do not use recommended formulation of the World Health Organization.

“None of the products used the WHO recommended had sanitizer formulations,”  say the study by the University of Nairobi and  Pharma Manufacturing Solutions Ltd, a private consulting firm in Nairobi.

The 66 products were collected from Nairobi Central Business District (CBD), Kibera, Karen Thika and Ngong towns in the larger Nairobi Metropolitan.

Most striking, the team says is the fragrant disregard for laws requiring manufactures to clearly label all active and inactive ingredients in their products.


Substandard and counterfeits

An earlier analysis of the same samples which appears in the East and Central African Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, confirms the presence of substandard and counterfeit hand sanitizers in Nairobi’s retail outlets.

The team of Nasser, P N Lumb, Jean Mujyarugamba and Kennedy Abuga said many samples had incomplete or missing label information, ingredient lists, cautionary warnings, standardization marks and or permit numbers.

“Poor formulation indicators such as haziness and phase separation were encountered in some products,” said the study.

The samples were evaluated for appearance, packaging, labeling, warnings and standardization marks. “None met all these parameters,” said the report.

Safety concerns

For example while the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) specify that ‘a sanitizer shall be clear, colourless and in the form of liquid or gel,’ a quarter of the products appeared hazy. This suggests incomplete dissolution of one or more of the components.

The team says the presence of substandard and counterfeit hand sanitizers in the Nairobi metropolis is cause for worry especially for consumer safety and Covid 19 prevention.

“Since the city is a microcosm of the market trends in Kenya, the results are likely to reflect quality issues with these products countrywide,” suggests the study.

By Gatonye Gathura

About Gatonye Gathura 142 Articles
Science Journalist

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