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How healthy are toxic dye, pesticides and effluent?
The truth about Onions and
By Daphne D'Gama

Healthy Vegetables: What’s the Truth?
Every generation has had the importance of eating plenty of vegetables drilled into them by their parents, relatives and teachers. When asked if vegetables are healthy, homemaker Kavita Rathi, says, “Of course - vegetables are extremely important for good health because of the vitamins, minerals and fiber they provide. Every meal cooked in our home has a variety of fresh vegetables.” But how far is that true? Are vegetables, with all their nutrients, really healthy for you and your family? The truth is malpractices like use of banned pesticides and insecticides, (or indiscriminate use of even legal ones,) waste water for irrigation, injected chemicals, artificial colouring materials and toxic dyes in vegetables, far outweigh their naturally healthy qualities. So dangerous are these extra constituents, that vegetables can be the cause of several serious biological, neurological, reproductive and behavioral disorders.

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Cheap and toxic dyes, and artificial colour are used to make vegetables look fresh and green. It is not uncommon to see local vendors dipping vegetables into a bucket of green coloured water or applying saturated unhealthy oils - often inedible - to some vegetables to give them a glossy, fresh appearance. These dyes and oils can contain traces of petroleum and tar! Chemicals are also injected into the vegetables to make them ripen faster and appear larger and healthier when, in fact, it is just the opposite.
Toxic Chemicals
A recent study by the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute (2008) has revealed the harm caused by greens. “The pesticide remains in vegetables can cause neurological and blood disorders, lung ailments and affect the reproductive system of women. Agriculture workers are as prone to risks as consumers,” said Manas Ranjan Roy, the principal investigator of the study. Complaints of chronic fatigue, excessive sweating, tingling of limbs, persistent headache, muscle stiffness, blurring of sight and numbness in feet are significantly higher among those exposed to pesticides, the study suggests. Pesticides and insecticides can also cause loss of weight and appetite, irritability, insomnia and other behavioral disorders. Among women, the most likely effects are irregular menstruation, unintentional abortion and stillbirth.
Experts have also warned about the presence of bacteria, such as Salmonella, (typhoid and Para-typhoid) and E coli (food poisoning) in vegetables grown at Dhapa, a Kolkata suburb. This may be caused by garbage used to fertilise the fields where the vegetables are grown; Dhapa being the Municipalities waste dumping area. The bulk of the vegetables sold in the city of Kolkata are sourced from the districts covered by the study — North and South 24-Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, Nadia, Burdwan and the two Midnapores. Officials blamed the laxity of the Agriculture Department for the violation of the ban on pesticides. “For effective implementation of the ban, there should be co-ordination among agriculture, health and environment departments. But such an interface is absent,” said a Health Department Official. .
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Around the Globe

This is not only a local problem. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ran nearly 51,000 tests on 44 fruits and veggies between 2000 and 2004. Their data was compiled by the Environmental Working Group, and showed that potatoes had the highest chemical contamination level – 1.7 part per million (ppm) on average, with over 80% of the potatoes tested having some detectable levels.

In 2006, a British group linked child cancer directly with food-borne pesticides.


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Artificially coloured onions can look fresher and healthier
Kolkata's waste recycling in its wetlands now poses dangers to public health. Vegetables that utilize Kolkata's sewage are increasingly laced with industrial toxins. Another study conducted by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the Calcutta University's Department of Agriculture revealed that the vegetables are contaminated with lead, cadmium and nickel. These are grown in the Dhapa-Bantala area in Kolkata and comprise about a fourth of the total amount of vegetables sold in the Kolkata markets. Scientists conducting the experiment have pointed out that these heavy metals cause serious health hazards if assimilated in the body in toxic amounts.

All are guilty
If you think these apply only to fresh vegetables available in open markets and local shops, you are mistaken. Though supermarkets have labeling standards and handling norms, vegetables lose most of their nutritive value in handling, storage, and preparation, and are consequently not healthy. Also, some produce sourced locally may also have the same hazards as the local markets. Chemical preservatives and artificial flavouring used in frozen and canned vegetables are even more dangerous, and have long-term effects on the stomach, intestines, liver and lungs. Metal contamination from tinned vegetables or those wrapped in foil cause stomach infections and prolonged expose may even lead to death. Thanks to growing awareness about these dangers, some malls and supermarkets have made a start in stocking ‘organic vegetables’, although in a small way, usually in their ‘health food’ sections.

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MORE: Organic - The answer to toxic crops?