By Mandulee Mendis It has been proven that the chemicals injected on fruits and vegetables could bring harmful effects on people. Therefore, in making our readers aware of the situation and of the ways and means through which we could reduce the harmful effect, LW spoke to Dr.Waruna Gunathilake, head of National Center for Medical Toxicology and Poison Information, National Hospital, Colombo.
Yes it is true.
Ethaphone is the growth regulator for plants, which is widely used for fruit ripening process. Excess use of this chemical and direct application of it on the surface of fruits and vegetables is dangerous because it could cause long term health problems. The two main problems existing are, the usage of fertilizers, pesticides and agro chemicals in excess than recommended and injection of chemicals on fruit and vegetables at erroneous time periods. If farmers use fertilizers, agrochemicals and pesticides in excess than recommended, specially immediately before the harvest, they are not obliging to Pre Harvest Interval principle.
Pre harvest interval is the time period where the farmers should not apply any chemical on crops, this is usually immediately before the harvesting period. Our farmers apply chemicals not only immediately before, even before it is dispatched to the market. If they are shipping food to Colombo tomorrow, they inject chemicals on them today, which is a very disgraceful deed.
Critical conditions like cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, lipid abnormalities, birth abnormalities and heart problems can be caused due to the consumption of fruits and vegetables on which excess chemicals have been used by farmers.
Consumers must be given the required knowledge to identify chemical tainted fruits and vegetables. Here are some of the ways to identify such fruits and vegetables. Absence of natural indentations and black marks on the surface is a sign of chemical usage. If fruits like banana are having an equal uniform yellow colour surface, chemicals have been used on them because in the natural process of ripening there should be both yellow and green areas on fruits. The chemical injection marks are usually under the small sticker pasted on the fruit. Sometimes you could smell unusual chemical odour from the fruit or vegetable. Fruits and vegetables injected with chemicals have a very shiny outer layer and only the outermost areas of the fruit are ripened, inner core would still be raw.
Anyhow the customers should consume these fruits and vegetables if they have no other option of buying naturally grown fruits and vegetables. Therefore we must try to neutralize the effects of chemicals to the maximum possible from home.
There are no proper regulations to govern the usage of chemicals on crops. Therefore to stop this vicious cycle and to protect the nation’s health, proper regulations to govern the usage of chemicals on crops should be implemented. The government needs to monitor the chemical residue levels on fruits and vegetables. There are acceptable residue levels, if it is exceeded, necessary actions should be taken to withdraw those fruits and vegetables from the market in order to assure the safety of the food consumed by ordinary people. On the other hand, we need to educate the farmers. And the consumers should also know about what is happening around them and from where the food they consume come. Another issue is that chemicals contaminate the environment.
National Center for Medical Toxicology and Poison Information has organized an island wide awareness programmes to educate the public and the farmers about the risks of excess chemical usage on food. A special circular has already been sent to all health care institutional heads, with directives.