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25.01.2024 Featured EXPOSED: Crusader, Cancer-Causing Soap Banned by NAFDAC, Still Sold by Jumia and Konga

Published 25th Jan, 2024

By Sodeeq Atanda

Nigeria is a large market for several unlicensed beauty products, some of which pose direct health risks to the population. Outright Joe, a realtor based in Lagos State, could be described as a dedicated user of the medicated soap Crusader after using it consistently for 25 years. The soap was everyone’s favourite in his family, but he stopped using it in 2019.

“My sister introduced Crusader Medicated Soap to us, and I used it from 1994 to 2019,” Joe told FIJ on Tuesday. “I stopped using it for some reasons: the price became high and counterfeits became so prevalent in the market that you could hardly distinguish them. I didn’t notice any side effect on me while using it.”

READ ALSO: Nigerians React to Crusader Medicated Soap Ban in 2023 but It Is 20-Year-Old Contraband

Unlike Joe, his brother had a different experience. “My elder brother, at some point, started having rashes on his skin. Some scary lines formed on his skin and it left us wondering what could have caused that. He also stopped using the soap in 2021. He used the soap longer than I did,” said Joe.

Crusader soap listed on Konga

Before speaking with FIJ, Joe had spoken of his brother’s experience in a comment on X on September 15, 2023. Another comment by a user under the same post narrated how a woman suffered from forgetfulness after years of using the soap: “Thank you oooo, my mother in-law has been forgetting things lately. Yesterday she woke up and didn’t know where she was… thinking she had died.”

Similar testimonies flooded the comment section of a post made by Olufunmilayo Ogunsanya, a Nigerian medical doctor in the United Kingdom, amplifying the health consequences of using Crusader soap. The post was predicated on the news that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) arrested a syndicate illegally importing the soap, which had been designated as contraband several years earlier.

HOW CRUSADER CAUSES CANCER

Crusader soap contains mercury, which is deadly to the human body. It is a skin-lightening cosmetic product that has become the go-to bathing soap for many citizens. Among other health hazards, the soap can cause memory failure, skin rashes and skin cancer, as well as growth retardation in unborn babies if used by pregnant women. NAFDAC stated on September 15, 2023, that they confiscated a large quantity of Crusader soap illegally imported into the country. Until this disclosure, the status of the soap as contraband was unknown to many users.

Crusader Medicated Soap ordered from Konga

“Mercury is readily absorbed through the skin into the blood stream and exerts a debilitating effect on the vital internal organs of the body. Mercury can damage the skin, brain, the kidney and the nervous system. Damage to the brain results in memory problem, depression, tingling in the hands, feet or around the mouth. Damage to the skin causes rashes and blotchy spots and gives the skin a greyish colour. Mercury can also have harmful effects on the eye and ear, causing changes in vision and hearing, respectively,” the agency’s statement read in part.

Joseph Asikpo, then Taraba State NAFDAC coordinator, hinted in 2016 at the status of the soap as being banned in Nigeria. “We are continuously carrying out mop-ups of commonly used but banned products such as Crusader, Mekako, Montclaire and Amirah soaps and other mercury-containing products,” he said.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: No Evidence of Erisco’s Nagiko Tomato Approval on NAFDAC’s Website

The Minamata Convention on Mercury, signed by no fewer than 128 countries, prohibited the production and use of mercury-containing beauty products. Nigeria, as a party to the agreement, has banned mercury-containing products from its market. The ban also stopped the exportation of such products out of Nigeria.

Despite being designated as contraband globally and prohibited by NAFDAC, the soap is still being imported into and sold widely in the country. Even Jumia Nigeria and Konga, both major online marketplaces in Nigeria, are not left out in the distribution of the contraband.

JUMIA AND KONGA AS DISTRIBUTORS

As large digital marketplaces in Nigeria, Jumia and Konga serve a large portion of the population. On their platforms, cartons and packs of Crusader soap are available to end-users and resellers for purchase.

An order for a pack of the soap on Jumia by FIJ on January 14 was delivered on January 17. The details of the order showed that it was fulfilled by Prissy Cosmetics. A pack was delivered for N3,420 by the platform.

FIJ also checked Konga’s website and found that the soap was massively listed by different sellers. From the avalanche of vendors available, our reporter placed an order, and it was fulfilled by Jayce Mall. A delivery man delivered the order on January 18.

Konga delivered a pack for N4,705. The day after making payment online, our reporter started receiving unauthorised one-time passwords (OTP) from Konga. This persisted until he spoke with a customer agent via phone call.

Crusader Medicated Soap ordered from Jumia

“This high-quality soap contains 1.2% mercuric lodide HGI2, included as 3% of a potassium mercuric lodide solution. Crusader Medicated Soap helps prevent skin infections, pimples, boils, prickly heat, lice in the hair and body ordour,” the producers wrote on the soap’s pack.

FIJ visited Market Square, a supermarket located inside Maryland Mall, on December 19, 2023, to purchase the soap. The mall did not have the exact product on its shelf but the variant Crusader Magic White Skin Whitening Soap.

Although this brand is different, it was not certified by NAFDAC. Unlike the two pieces bought from Jumia and Konga that declared mercury as one of their ingredients, the Crusader Magic White has no such ingredient written on its box. It may contain mercury, though, based on how it works and NAFDAC’s warning.

Crusader soap bought from Market Square

According to the regulator, a “product may contain mercury, even if it is not listed as an ingredient on the label, especially if it is not registered by NAFDAC”.

Like Crusader Medicated Soap, this brand from Market Square claims to contain “fresh papaya fruit and vitamin E”.

“The papaya fruit extract helps to rejuvenate skin by sloughing of dead skin cells, Vitamin E is an excellent antioxidant which plays a role in the anti aging of skin. The synergistic effect of papaya fruit extract and vitamin E in Magic White Papaya Soap helps promote soft, youthful and radiant skin,” says the manufacturer.

Checkout page of Creams.ng

Further checks by FIJ showed that many other platforms also sell the product. Our reporter attempted to place an order for 200 cartons on Creams.ng. On checkout, it amounted to N4, 277,000. A lady who identified herself as Grace answered FIJ’s phone call on Wednesday. She confirmed that the company was aware of the ban. She, however, said they did not have the soap in stock and stated she would remove it from the website.

On Bevy Beauty, FIJ also attempted to order 1,000 packs of the soap for N3 million. The platform’s phone number was not available on Wednesday. However, FoodCo indicated that the soap was not in stock when FIJ checked on the same Wednesday.

Checkout page of Bevy Beauty.

UK’s COMPLICITY

FIJ found that the country of origin for the three soaps is the United Kingdom. Despite being a signatory to the Minamata Convention on Mercury, the UK flouts the anti-mercury agreement. Since 1999, the European country has been serially condemned for being at the centre of international trade enabling the production and distribution of mercury-bearing cosmetic products in Africa.

A report by the Denmark Ministry of Environment and Energy titled “Mercury in Soap in Tanzania” and dated 1999 identified five companies producing mercury-bearing soaps and cream. Four of these companies were in the UK.

The report stated that mercury from soap and cream permeates the body through the skin and inhalation. The authors found that a group of sixty Kenyan women who had used cream containing five to 10 percent ammoniated mercury had an average of 0.1 mg mercury per litre of urine, and 26 of these women had an average of 0.15 mg mercury per litre of urine. The latter group had developed the nephrotic syndrome (renal diseases). Another study showed that a group of sx women who had used cream with 1–3 percent ammoniated mercury had 0.03 to 0.6 mg mercury per litre of urine.

READ ALSO: NAFDAC Explains Why Nagiko Tomato’s Registration Is Absent From Its Database

Jumia and Konga had not responded to FIJ’s emails at press time, while an email sent to Market Square returned undelivered. However, the soap could no longer be found on Jumia when this reporter checked on Thursday morning.

Christy Obiazikwor, the spokesperson of NAFDAC, told FIJ on Thursday that the agency would take up FIJ’s findings as nobody is above the law. “You have reported an issue to us now, and we will take it up from there. Nobody is above the law. Some of these platforms are sometimes difficult to trace because it is when people order that they sell,” she said.

When asked whether the agency communicated the ban to various stores, the spokesperson said, “The reason we do press briefings is so that everybody knows what we are doing. We don’t speak with individuals or businesses because there are many. But press briefings capture everyone and our findings are published for the public to read.”

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Published 25th Jan, 2024

By Sodeeq Atanda

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