M A I N   N E W S

High level of toxic metals, pathogens in vegetables
Sarbjit Dhaliwal
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 3
It is official. The concentration of heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, zinc and chromium have been found beyond the permissible limit in green vegetables. Pathogens were also found in all root vegetables. The samples of the vegetables were got analysed by the Punjab Pollution Control Board (PPCB).

While documenting the results, the PPCB authorities have stated that “these heavy metals become toxic when these are not metabolised by the body and accumulate in the soft tissues”.

A high concentration of cadmium can adversely affect the liver, the placenta, the kidneys, the lungs, the brain and the bones. However, cadmium is an effective anti-tumour agent when given in non-toxic doses. Likewise, higher doses of zinc can cause vomiting, diarrhoea, nausea and epigastic pain. However, zinc is an essential substance and its deficiency results in severe health-related problems.

The ingesting of a large amount of chromium can be harmful. It can act as a cancer-causing agent. However, chromium is an essential nutrient required by the body for the metabolism of sugars, fats and proteins.

The samples were got tested to check the effects of contaminants in waste water on soil and vegetables. The PPCB authorities had got the vegetable and soil samples from fields which are irrigated with water from various channels including the Chandigarh choe, the Patiala-ki-Rao, the Lakhanpur drain and the Mohali drain. These samples were compared with vegetables grown using underground water. From amongst the root vegetables, samples of turnip, onion, potato, turmeric and radish were tested. Samples of brinjal, and cauliflower were also subjected to analysis.

A spokesman of the PPCB said today that Mr Tripat Rajinder Singh Bajwa, chairman of the board, had gone through the report. On his directions, the report had been sent to the departments concerned for the necessary action.

The PPCB authorities say in the report that a high concentration of toxic metals has been found in vegetables perhaps because of their high absorption capacity. They say that a possible reason for the high concentration can be the different inputs used by farmers for growing vegetables. Though these heavy metals were present in the soil, their concentration was within the prescribed limits.

As far as the presence of pathogens in root vegetables is concerned, the board officials say it can be because of “soil-borne complex pathogens or the use of organic manure and sewage as fertilisers. Another reason can be the use of contaminated water. There were no pathogens in non-root vegetables. Pathogens can cause various diseases”.

The process of collecting soil, waste water, underground water and vegetable samples was handled by Mr S.S. Matharu, Mr S.P. Garg and Dr Babu Ram, all senior engineers posted in the board. They were assisted by other staff members of the board.

The board authorities have recommended that sewage treatment plants should be installed on all channels from which water is being used for growing vegetables. It should be ensured that the treated sewage conforms to the standards prescribed.

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