August 23, 2018

Bauchi residents at risk of cancer, impotency – Medical experts

Bauchi residents at risk of cancer, impotency – Medical experts

Bags of sachet water exposed to sunlight

Bags of sachet water exposed to sunlight

By Charles Agwam – Bauchi

Residents of Bauchi state will have to apply caution to the kind of water they drink as medical experts say they are at risk of cancer and impotency if they continue to consume water in plastic and polythene bags, exposed to sun.

The investigation follows the rise of cancer cases in Bauchi, with over 61 new cases of cancer related ailments.

According to Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Cancer is the uncontrolled growth of abnormal cells in the body. Cancer develops when the body’s normal control mechanism stops working. Old cells do not die and instead grow out of control, forming new, abnormal cells. These extra cells may form a mass of tissue, called a tumor. Some cancers, such as leukemia, do not form tumors.

Despite many advances in the field of medicine, medical experts say the cure for cancer is yet to be found. This has made cancer one of the most dreaded and deadly diseases in the history of mankind.

However, it is within the power of consumers to protect their families and reduce the risk of the spread of cancer and impotency by avoiding bottled and packaged ‘pure’ water exposed to sun radiation.

Vanguard’s investigation reveals that almost all water dealers in Bauchi have adopted an unsafe method of storing water under the sun in a bid to manage space, and for ease of offloading the bags of pure water.

To provide medical advice, Vanguard interviewed some medical experts to get their views on the health hazards associated with exposing drinking water packaged in plastic bottles and polythene bags, to sunlight.

Speaking to Vanguard, Dr. Habib Ningi, a medical doctor with Reemee Medicare Centre, said sachet water exposed to heat beyond room temperature could be cancerous. He said the heat could melt some of the substances used in making the polythene bags.

According to him, the polythene bags contain cancerous substances, that when dissolved into the water, are harmful to the body.

“When sun heats a polythene bag or plastic container, certain harmful elements dissolve into the water, making it unsafe for consumption. Because polythene bags are weather sensitive, there’s dissolution of carcinogenic materials into the water. Exposing water packaged in polythene bags and plastics to sun rays can also accelerate the activities of pathogenic substances in the water, which also makes it unsafe for drinking.

“Plastic water bottles contain a chemical known as bisphenol A (BPA). Tests over time has proven that it reduces sperm count and increases the risk of breast cancer. When plastic container is heated, it releases its chemical composition into the water.

“However, all cancerous growths undergo a progression. You have to expose yourself to enough risk to have cancer.” Dr. Ningi added.

Dr. Ningi therefore, recommended that manufacturers and retailers of packaged water whether in plastic bottles or polythene bags should ensure that adequate provision is made for proper storage of water, suggesting that it is even better to use BPA-free materials such as stainless steel to store water.

Another health expert who is into private practice, Dr. Alheri Abu corroborated Dr. Ningi’s assertions that consumers of exposed packaged water, weather in plastic bottles or in sachets are liable to cancer and impotency due to the chemical content released from the container and into the water when heated up.

“It is very dangerous to consume water that has been exposed to sun in polytechnic bags and plastic bottles. When the polythene bag or plastic bottle is heated up, they release some harmful chemicals which are known to cause cancer in their consumers.

“The chemicals that are released are carcinogenic materials and bisphenol A (BPA), for polythene bags and plastic bottles respectively. However, to avert the danger of cancer and impotency, manufacturers and retailers must ensure that the water they sell to people are well protected from sunlight and other harmful substances that can endanger the lives of the people.

“It is also important to state that manufacturers of these products must indicate on them the appropriate temperature for storing packaged ‘pure’ water and bottled water” Dr. Abu noted.

Also speaking, a senior lecturer in the department of microbiology, Federal University Lafia, Mr. Amos Ofaeta blamed the regulatory agencies for poor supervisory roles in the discharge of their duties, adding that most times, companies get away with crimes because of negligence and complacency on the part of the regulators.

“I can’t completely blame those water companies, even though they are supposed to play by the rules. Our regulators have gone moribund, that’s why things like this happen. In the other parts of the world, actions like this draw stiff sanctions, but sadly, that’s not the case in Nigeria.

“I’m deeply worried. The harm that these chemicals cause to unsuspecting buyers is immeasurable. To this end, I implore all regulators concerned to live up to expectations in safe guarding the lives of the people,” he lamented.

When contacted, the state director of National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in Bauchi state, Bashir Muazu said though he is aware of the open storage method, he didn’t know that exposure of water in plastic and polythene bags could expose consumers to cancer.

However, Muazu assured that with effect from next week, his agency will embark on sensitization campaigns to educate people on the danger of consuming exposed water in plastics and polythene bags, adding that henceforth, no retailer will be allowed to store water under the sun.

“I am not aware that water exposed to sun in plastic bottles and polythene bags can endanger the lives of consumers. We will however, embark on enlightenment campaign to educate the public on the danger of consuming exposed water in plastics and polythene bags.

“Retailers must also provide better storage for their goods otherwise, they will be sanctioned.” Mr. Muazu added.

When Vanguard interviewed some retailers, they said they were not aware that poor storage could attract cancer to their customers, adding that they would change the method of storing packaged water henceforth.

One of the marketers along Dass road, who pleaded anonymity said he had adopted the method of storing water in a metal cage, outside his shop for lack of space.

“I am sorry to hear about this development. The reason we store our water in metal cages is because we don’t have enough space inside the shop. But with what I just learned, I will create space to accommodate the water in my shop”, he said.

Another marketer who didn’t want her name in print, said that nobody had told them they were not doing the right thing by exposing water in plastic and polythene bags to sunlight.

“I will be honest with you, nobody has told us anything about this. Not NAFDAC, not anyone. But things will change from now on with this knowledge of cancer, because anyone can be a victim”, she noted.

One of the patients, when interviewed said he’s not sure how he got cancer, but agreed to the possibility that it might have resulted from the consumption of exposed water in plastics and polythene bags.

“Well, I am not sure what led to this ailment but it is possible that it might be from consumption of bottled and pure water exposed to sun.

“It’s my hope that, very soon a cure for this sickness will be found. Because the thought of knowing that you have few days to live, is worse than anything you can imagine,” he lamented.

Several efforts to get reactions of ‘pure’ water companies in Bauchi proved abortive as they declined comments.

However, it is important to note that it has not been established whether the recent rise in cancer cases can be attributed to the quality of water consumed by residents of Bauchi state as other factors such as environment, heredity and age are also on the table.