The Federal Government on Wednesday raised fears over the increased adverse health effects of mycotoxins on Nigerians which, it said, constituted 25 per cent of the diseases ravaging communities in the country.
The government said occupants of residential and office buildings, schools, agricultural and non-agricultural settings including food and food products in Nigeria, are mostly affected by mycotoxins in Nigeria.
The Minister of Environment, Sharon Ikeazor represented by her Special Assistant, Priscilla Ochekpe, made this statement in Abuja during a workshop on the prevention and control of mycotoxins in the food environment.
The event was organised by the Environmental Health Officers Registration Council of Nigeria, an agency in the Federal Ministry of Environment.
During the programme, the acting Registrar of EHORECON, Dr Yakubu Mohammed Baba, said the issue had been profound because of poor food storage, environmental contamination in communities and lack of good health storage of food by people.
Ikeazor said, “It will also interest you to know that mycotoxins constitute about 25 per cent of the diseases that ravages our communities. This is because of poor food storage, environment contamination in our communities and lack of good health storage of food by our people.”
“I am delighted to welcome you to this important workshop on the prevention and control of mycotoxins in food and the environment. This workshop has become necessary because, over time, there has been an increase in the adverse health effects of mycotoxins on occupants of residential and office buildings, schools, agricultural and non-agricultural settings including food and food products in Nigeria.
“The common occurrence and extensive growth of moulds in homes, food and food products and other biologically active compounds produced by these moulds pose a great risk to human health. The lack of knowledge by the public and private institutions about these moulds and the effects of the metabolites they produce is of great concern.
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“Exposure to moulds and their toxic mycotoxins and other metabolites in food and environment has been associated with disorders of the respiratory and central nervous systems and equally caused potent ability to inhibit protein synthesis.”
According to her, fungi thrive in food and food products including damp environments and they are reproduced through spores that usually grow on food and grains like rice, beans, groundnut.
Also, it grows on walls in many homes, office buildings, furniture and other materials where they produce their toxins known as mycotoxin.
The minister said, “We must all be worried about the risk of environmental exposures experienced by those that consume or are exposed to food and food products that are contaminated with mycotoxins.
“The ingestion of mycotoxin through food and inhalation of mycotoxins and other contaminants in the air might result in lung damage, allergic reactions such as irritation in the respiratory tract, eyes, and skin, and sometimes headaches. Exposure to all these contaminants could have harmful effects on vital organs and consequently on the overall human health and productivity.
“There is a high economic loss due to man-hour loss from diseases induced by mycotoxin and the continuous rejection of Nigeria food products in the international market. Moulds are perhaps the most pressing food quality problems in environments because many of our food and food products are moist organic materials.
“Arising from the need to avoid potential adverse health effects, people should be educated, informed, and enlightened on the negative effects of exposures to moulds and their bio-aerosols in homes, farms, agricultural and non-agricultural settings
“They should also be educated on the management, prevention and control of moulds and mycotoxin contamination in their environments, food and feeds. I also expect that you should be able to work for a reduction of incidence of the sick-building syndrome among inhabitants and users of school and residential buildings; and above all, Nigeria economy will be boosted by wide acceptability of agricultural produce at the international market”, she said.
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