By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
Calcium Carbide (CaC2) most commonly used in artificial ripening of fruits by human is proven to be extremely dangerous to human health and is one of the causal agents of cancer and food poisoning.
Mr. Perky Wills, a food nutritionist who works with one of the leading fast food and eatery in Uyo said due to the associated health hazards, the use of Calcium Carbide has been discouraged worldwide because its carcinogen agent has the ability to alter human cells into cancerous cells.
According to him, calcium carbide treatment of food is extremely hazardous because it contains traces of arsenic and phosphorous, and once dissolved in water, it produces acetylene gas. Arsenic, phosphorous and acetylene gas may affect the different body organs and causes various health problems like headache, dizziness, mood disturbances, sleepiness, mental confusion, memory loss, cerebral edema, seizures and prolonged hypoxia.
A survey in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital shows that despite these hazardous effects, most sellers of fruits like bananas and mangoes still indulge in the use of calcium carbide for ripening the fruits they sell to unsuspecting members of the public.
A vctim to this unhealthy practice, Mr. Hogan Akpan, a public servant in Uyo, said he survived death narrowly after eating two hundred Naira (N200.00) worth of bananas he bought from a road side fruits seller suspected to have used calcium carbide (CaC2) to ripen the banana.
Akpan, who said that he bought the banana from one of those selling fruits at Aka Etinan junction, Uyo on the 27th of last month while returning from a church service, explained that he survived after being rushed by his Pastor friend to the nearest hospital for immediate medical intervention.
“We had a combined church service that day at Nsukara Offot branch of our church. I decided that while I worshipped at our home branch, my son should go to Nsukara branch. After the service around 2pm, I decided to buy the banana worth N250.00 and N50.00 groundnuts from the fruits seller (a woman) at Aka Etinan junction to eat while waiting for my son to return.
“I requested her to give me a seat which she offered and I sat there to eat the banana and groundnuts while waiting for my son to return. When I ate the bananas, I noticed an usual taste, suspecting something was used to ripen it but when asked, the woman denied using something to ripen it.
“Two hours after while at home, I began to feel stomach upsets and dizziness. Initially I thought it would go but instead of it subsiding, the pain was more and was accompanied by vomiting at the same time. Within minutes, everything in my system changed, my vision became blurred.
“My visitor, a Pastor who was with me on noticing how I was gasping for breath hurriedly assisted me into his car and took me hospital where I was diagnosed of food poisoning and place on drugs immediately.
“For over a week since the incident happened, I have spent over N50,000.00 to buy drugs which I take daily. The pain has subsided but I’m still feeling dizzy”, Akpan narrated.
When our correspondent interviewed some of the fruits sellers, some of them denied using calcium carbide to ripen the fruits but others admitted using it though claimed ignorance of the harmful health effect of using the chemical to human health.
One who identified herself as Mrs. Grace Bassey, mother of three children who said she has been selling fruits for over five years said she uses natural way to ripen her banana because she understand the danger of using carbide as ripening agent.
“Using chemicals to hasten ripening of fruits are harmful to the body and I am a devote Christian, a member of Deeper Life Bible Church, my Bible says I should do to others what I wish others to do to me
“What I did before I started to sell banana was, I buy on three days interval, if I buy five bunches on Monday, on Thursday I will buy additional four or five bunches.
“All bunches do not have the same capacity to ripe at same time, most times it ripens at interval, so you will always have what to sell everyday by so doing.
“We only cover the banana with a thick material to avoid sun rays from touching it in the afternoon while we open it for fresh air at night
“Even though there’s a rumour that people use Carbide to hasten the ripening of banana and other fruits, well, I will advise them not to try it; it will only make it soft, black and will spoil on time”, she said
For another, “I am aware that some people use carbide to ripen the banana they sell but I don’t do so. I get my banana ripen by mixing some pint of salt in warm water then sprinkle it on unripe banana, cover it with leaves, after two to three days it will ripe.”
But for another, “using carbide to force banana or even mangoes to ripe is not a new thing. As fruits seller and to have what to sell everyday to feed my family, I do sometimes especially during raining season where banana takes longer days to ripe depending on how matured it was when harvesting apply small carbide or limestone after grinding it into powder, to make it ripe quick.
“After ripening it, I will wash off the carbide dust on the banana with water before I sell to people”, she explained.