Health News of Monday, 26 November 2012

Source: GNA

Most vegetables in Accra found contaminated

Health authorities could soon be grappling with a grave public health concern as vegetables sold in Accra markets have been found to contain up to 5000 times the permissible levels of chemical residue.

A survey carried out between 2007 and 2008 revealed that vegetables consumed in Accra had more than a dozen chemicals all above tolerable percentages and this holds serious consequences for the health of consumers.

Mr. George Ortsin, Country Programme Coordinator of the Small Grants Programme of the UNDP/ Global Environment facility (GEF), revealed this in an interview with the GNA at a media consultative workshop organized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at the weekend in Accra.

He said the high rates of the chemical residue could be as result of some farmers resorting to the use of banned chemicals, including Dichloro Diphenyl Trichloroethane (DDT) to control pest and weeds to maximize yield.

He said samples collected from various markets across the capital found out that in most cases, the chemical residue in them exceeded 2000 percent and the least recorded was 500 percent.

Mr. Ortsin said that the phenomenon spelt doom for both human health and the environment, because the cumulative effect of consuming the vegetables over a long period may soon manifest in diverse health problems.

He said even though there have been intensified educational campaigns on the need to minimize the use of pesticides in farming, some middle men and farmers still smuggle the banned chemicals through the country’s porous borders.

What compounded the situation, he said, was the lack of capacity of border control officials to detect the chemicals which have become sophisticated in nature as farmers were now mixing more than 20 substances for maximum effect.

He said the report was made available to government and that the survey would be repeated in 2013.

The source of the vegetables he revealed came from Weija, Ada and Kawukudi in the Greater Accra Region, Keta in the Volta Region and Akomadan in the Ashanti region.

Mr. Ortsin said in order to safeguard the health of Ghanaians and the environment, emphasis should be placed on the promotion of organic farming and that the programme (GEF) was intending to introduce organic certification of vegetables in the country and make it available at supermarkets and various outlets across the country.

To counter the problem, he revealed that an Indian company is to set up an organic fertilizer plant in the country soon, and by December negotiations would be completed for the pilot phase of the programme to begin in early 2013.

He said the Indians company would make available the technology and samples of organic produce and when that proves satisfactory, a cooperation agreement would be signed for the full scale operation of the organic plant.

Mr. Ortsin said five farmer groups in the Ashanti and Volta regions have been identified for the pilot phase of that arrangement.