Mid-day, Mumbai, Updated: January 28, 2013 14:55 IST
Analysis of the samples of green vegetables and water that we collected from some farms lay bare the infections and illnesses waiting to happen through their consumption.
A closer look at the samples Mid Day collected from the vegetable farms and their water sources, by the side of railway tracks, confirmed what we had suspected.
While laboratory tests run on the water proved it to be turbid and foul, the vegetables themselves were found to be host bodies to parasitic life forms, other than being a reserve of carcinogenic heavy metals.
That bodes ill for all, since we are what we eat.
A farmer shows his produce of radish which is ready for cleaning, at Thakurli
Lab 1: Municipal Laboratory, Dadar (W)
Santosh Jathar, a food analyst notified by the government at the lab, conducted chemical and bacterial analyses on water samples from the ponds and the gutters that irrigate the farms at Thakurli and Kalwa. According to Jathar, chemical analysis of both water samples showed them to have excess turbidity with the presence of organic and inorganic components detrimental to human health and wellbeing.
The water collected from the pond was brownish and showed white suspended particles with an algal smell, pointing to high contamination. The smell of algae is an indicator of stale, stagnant water. Whereas, the water sample from the gutter gave off a smell redolent of its source. It also indicated the presence of human excrement.
Report from the municipal lab confirms the presence of deadly E. coli bacteria in the water sample
Jathar said, "Traces of any of the above in vegetables render them unfit for eating, and pose a high risk of treatable waterborne diseases like gastroenteritis, cholera, typhoid etc. But parasitic diseases like giradiasis (or beaver fever) and amoebiasis (an infection in the gastrointestinal tract) can be very dangerous."
Bacterial analysis of the samples showed the presence of Escherichia coli (or E. coli) bacterium, particularly infectious for children and senior citizens. The sample also had a coliform level of 1609 per 100 ml. The permissible limit for coliform in potable water is zero.
"The presence of E. coli means the water can easily have other dangerous pathogens. The bacteria can latch on to the vegetables if such water is used to scrub them," explained Jathar. Jathar concluded that the water is not only unfit for human consumption but also for cleaning vegetables. He advises consumers to refrain from eating the vegetables and fruits raw, even as garnishing.
Lab 2: Equinox Solutions, Prabhadevi
An executive at the lab cautioned people against the ills of the vegetables. Ashwin Bhadri, head of business relations, said, "The water we tested was not suitable for drinking. The vegetables tested had high counts of yeast. Another test determined traces of cadmium, copper and zinc in the foods items. These heavy metals simply should not be present in food." Another lab report shows a high level of turbidity in the water used for cultivation
Speaking of diseases, he said, "Cadmium can lead to kidney dysfunction,
lung impairment and even cancer in the long run. Its accumulation in the
body may lead to bone diseases. To sum, consuming these vegetables raw
may play havoc with vital body organs and functions of the heart, brain,
liver, lungs, kidneys and bones. There needs to be checks in the system
to purge vegetables of these pollutants."