Beware! Farm-fresh veggies too pose health hazards

Published: 22 November, 2011 06:56 IST | Johnlee Abraham |

Beware! The farm-fresh vegetables you buy from vendors may cause you deadly diseases such as cancer

Beware! The farm-fresh vegetables you buy from vendors may cause you deadly diseases such as cancer.

For these alluringly green vegetable are irrigated with untreated sewage water that contain high levels of lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury and arsenic, a research by Indian Institute of Horticultural Research (IIHR) suggests.

According to the study, the menace takes alarming proportion as consignments of such unsafe vegetables are making inroads into the city market uninterrupted from adjoining areas in the absence of a system to check the edibility of such items.

As per the IIHR research conducted over a period of fours years in suburban areas of Bellandur Tank, Varthur Tank, Nagawara Tank and Byramangala Tank the vegetables irrigated with sewage water contain high levels of lead, cadmium, chromium, mercury, arsenic and other  heavy metal contents.

The study further said the prolonged use of untreated sewage water for irrigation has also contaminated the soil. Rampant use of pesticides has also added to the problem.

The research stated that the toxic levels in the soil of the study areas were more than 6 mg, which is way above permissible limits.  While the study has brought to light an alarming reality, the State Horticulture Department seems to be playing down the issue.

Instead of taking some serious efforts to curb this menace, the department has taken refuge in a blame-game. "It is mainly the small-time vendors, who operate around the Bangalore Urban, sneak in toxic vegetables into the city.
They buy their stuff from farms that use untreated sewage water. And since they are very few in numbers, it's difficult to keep a watch on them," said Shanmukhappa, Managing Director, Horticultural Producers' Co-operative Marketing and Processing Society (HOPCOMS).

What's the solution?
Is there no way to put a curb on these vendors at all? "If we have a doubt that the produce might be contaminated, it is then we send it to the testing labs," added Shanmukhappa.

He also added that the only way to tackle the entry of toxic vegetables into the market was through close vigil. According to experts, until and unless, the vegetables are screened for finding residual traces of toxic chemicals, there is no way to differentiate these vegetables from normal ones.

"The health hazards caused by consuming vegetables contaminated with heavy metals are many.

It may vary from simple complications such as headache, body cramps, nausea to more severe disorders like cancers, renal damage, cardiovascular diseases and even damage to nervous system," said Dr Thuppil Venkatesh, Principal Investigator, National Referral Centre for Lead Poisoning in India.

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