Bulawayo City Council (BCC) has warned residents that vegetables watered using sewer water pose a threat to the intellectual capacity of children as the water is contaminated with dangerous chemicals.
Speaking to women at a stakeholder engagement meeting organised by Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) on Thursday, BCC Senior Environment Officer Nkanyiso Ndlovu said sewer water contains chemicals that affect the intellectual development of children.
The 2012 Bulawayo health services department report on food and agriculture revealed that some farmers especially those in urban areas divert sewage and industrial waste effluent to water their produce hence bacterial and chemical contamination of vegetables was possible.
“Sewer contains a lot of chemicals, we found traces of oestrogen, pesticide and other industrial chemicals. The survey was conducted in 2012, it was meant to cover a period of five years. In that survey it was found that traces of lead which we found on top of vegetable leaf surfaces affects the intellectual development of children that affects their academic potential,” Ndlovu said.
Lead in general is not biodegradable and has the potential to accumulate in different body organs leading to unwanted side effects.
It was discovered that in children if exceeding the maximum permissible limits can affect the intellectual development, cause skin rashes, stomach problems and ulcers, respiratory problems, weakened immune system, kidney and liver damage and lung cancer.
“There were some gardens we surveyed along streams and others were found along Umguza river, Trinance area which are plots. With most people getting their vegetables from illegal vendors it makes it hard for the local authority to monitor.
“Even though the Bulawayo health service department is responsible for monitoring the programme it has however been over the year impossible due to inadequate resources.
“There is a possibility that most of illegal vendors sell vegetables that are already contaminated however as a local authority we continue educating residents to buy from reputable sources,” Ndlovu said.
He added that the process of monitoring illegal operators is impossible.
“With shops they are registered and licensed so our inspectors have a way of checking food samples but with these other non- reputable one you cannot take samples from them because most of the time they operate illegally,” he said.
Meanwhile, he added that besides affecting intellectual ability sewer water makes children reach their puberty stages early.
“Vendors are all about profits but they are not aware of some of the dangers that chemical from sewer bring, besides intellectual capacity, sewer water also makes children grow fast towards their puberty stages than expected,” he said.
The survey revealed that 97% of Choumoellier samples exceeded the WHO/FAO maximum levels of cadmium and 40% of the samples exceeded that of lead. The highest concentration of lead was 17,86mg/kg in Choumoellier.
However, chairperson of the Bulawayo WCoZ chapter, Mildred Sandi encouraged such stakeholder engagements with the local authority to be consistent as they empower women with knowledge.
“When we started this session most women had their tempers high, but now that the local authority has shared the information, we are now at ease, as women let us desist from unethical trends,” Sandi said.