Medical Perspectives | Others

February 26, 2020

Doctor Jana May Marie B. Cruz, MD

It is no surprise that Filipinos love Chinese food. This is evident by looking around restaurants or just about everywhere. Yang chow fried rice, siopao, siomai, pancit, sweet and sour pork,have all became staples of Filipino-Chinese cuisine.Chinese and Filipino trade were said to have begun even before the Sung Dynasty wherein silk and other Chinese products were introduced to the Filipinos.


Chinese food has been a part of Filipino culture, no matter what the occasion is. Some Filipinos even fly to China and experience authentic Chinese cuisine.  But before craving for that special wonton noodle, it is important to look into the source where the ingredients were from followed by its preparation. This article sheds light on the impact of pollution, specifically soil and water, to food safety and health risks.


In China, a large population has already been affected by the combination of pollution and increase in food safety risks. This is due to water scarcity, pesticide over-application, and chemical pollution. These are known to be the most important factors impacting food safety in China(Yonglong, L., et. al., 2014).


To ensure the sustainability of grain yield, water must be made available at all times. However, China is facing a water shortage due to the following: (1) uneven distribution of surface water resources, (2) increasing demands from irrigation, (3) over population, (4) and fast urbanization. Severe surface water pollution not only intensifies water shortage but also leads to grain quality degradation(Yonglong, L., et. al, 2014).


Among all the types of pollutants reported, heavy metals posted the highest risk for food safety in China. (Ministry of Environment Protection and Ministry of Land Resources of thePeople's Republic of China, 2014). Mining, smelting, sewage irrigation, sludge reuse, and fertilizer application are the known key sources of heavy metals. Vast areas of farmland are affected by heavy metals through wastewater irrigation, waste transportation, sludge application, and atmospheric deposition.


Sewage irrigation is an effective method to lessen water shortage.It refers to the use of sewage outflow for irrigation purposes without any treatment. But it contains toxic and hazardous substances, thus not achieving standards for irrigation water quality. Most serious heavy pollutants revealed were mercury (Hg), lead (Pb) and cadmium (Cd). (Wang & Zhang, 2007; Xin, 2011) Effective irrigation is vital in ensuring food production.


Pesticide use has been playing an important role in the accomplishment of modern food production(Beddington, 2010; Rahman, 2013).Through its grain protection properties, it has massively contributed to growth in agricultural productivity. The total application of fertilizer and pesticide has doubled over the past two decades in China (National Bureau of Statistics of the People's Republic of China, 2013), thus those with high grain production evidently has increased usage of pesticides. Although most pesticides have been banned, some are still used to have greater yield of produce. Inefficient use of pesticides may lead to considerable human health risks and may also involve potential occupational hazards for farmers and environmental risks for agricultural ecosystems(Lake et. al., 2012; Thuy et. al., 2012).


More number of people are put at risk of carcinogenic diseases due to the escalating harmful effects of soil and water pollution, possibly contributing to the “cancer village”, a village wherein the morbidity rate of cancer is significantly higher than average (Liu, 2010). In more seriously polluted regions of China, these cancer villages tend to cluster geographically. “Cancer clusters” are greater-than-expected number of cancer cases that occurs within a group of people in a geographic area over a period of time, which is largely due to cancer-causing chemicals(USCDC, 2013).


To make the situation better, China should establish policies and programs that would focus on these specific issues. Food safety should be integrated with their soil and water pollution management. By addressing these, there will be lesser risk of carcinogenic diseases and other health consequences.



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