The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has warned against the use of calcium carbide for artificial ripening of fruit, saying it poses serious health hazards.
Director general of NAFDAC, Prof Moji Adeyeye, who gave the warning in a statement yesterday, said calcium carbide, when sprayed with water reacts chemically to produce acetylene, which acts like ethylene and ripens fruits by a similar process.
She said that the substance generally contains impurities such as arsenic, lead particles, phosphorus amongst others that pose a number of very serious health hazards
According to her, “These impurities may cause serious health problems when those applying calcium carbide on fruits come in direct contact with the chemical. Consumption of fruits containing these impurities may cause cancer, heart, kidney and liver failure.
“They may cause frequent thirst, irritation in mouth and nose, weakness, permanent skin damage, difficulty in swallowing, vomiting, skin ulcer and so forth. Higher exposure may cause undesired fluid build up in lungs (pulmonaryoedema).
“Acetylene produced by Calcium Carbide affects the neurological system and reduces oxygen supply to the brain and further induces prolonged hypoxia. The impurities are hazardous to pregnant women and children and may lead to headache, dizziness, mood disturbances, mental confusion, memory loss, cerebral oedema (swelling in the brain caused by excessive fluids), sleepiness, seizure etc.”
“Calcium Carbide is alkaline in nature and erodes the mucosal tissue in the abdominal region and disrupts intestinal functions. Consuming such artificially ripened fruits could result in sleeping disorders, mouth ulcers, skin rashes, kidney problems and possibly even cancer.”
Other symptoms according to her include diarrhoea, burning or tingling sensation in abdomen and chest difficulty in swallowing, irritation in eyes/skin, sore throat, cough, shortness in breathing and numbness.
Adeyeye therefore warned farmers, traders and the general public that ripening fruits with calcium carbide is very dangerous to health and is a criminal offence, adding that perpetrators would be prosecuted.
She also informed that NAFDAC is commencing immediate nationwide monitoring of fruits markets to check activities of unscrupulous traders involved in illegal artificial ripening of fruits using hazardous chemicals such as calcium carbide while advising consumers to examine fruits carefully to select the right fruit by observing the variation of colour.
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