Bulawayo City Council 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), council's 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," she said.
"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 stunts the intellectual development of children that affects their academic potential."
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, it can affect the intellectual development, cause skin rash, 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, Trenance area, which are plots. With most people getting their vegetables from illegal vendors, it makes it hard for the local authority to monitor," Ndlovu said.
"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."
He added that monitoring illegal operators was 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," Ndlovu said.
The survey revealed that 97% of choumoellier samples exceeded the World Health Organiation/Food and Agriculture Organisation 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, Bulawayo WCoZ chapter chairperson Mildred Sandi encouraged stakeholder engagements with the local authority to be consistent as they empowered women with knowledge. --CITE