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  • Writer's pictureCecilia Wandiga

Kenya Sustainable Cities - Chemical Safety Requires Transparency and Collaboration

Citizens in countries with a predominantly agrarian base such as Kenya often hold the belief that chemical toxicity is only a concern in countries with advanced manufacturing. The truth is, toxic chemicals are present in agriculture as well as in consumer goods. 

As an example, the Indian Medical Association found an alarming high rate of pesticides in soft drinks. The source was not food tampering but rather chemicals in the raw materials (and most likely the water contaminated by agricultural runoff) used to produce the soft drinks.

*Pesticide Percentage (%) in cold drinks released from IMA (Indian Medical Association) recently*

_1 Thums up 7.2%_ 

_2 Coke 9.4%_    

_3 7 UP 12.5%_    

_4 Mirinda 20.7%_    

_5 Pepsi 10.9%_   

_6 Fanta 29.1%_     

_7 Sprite 5.3%_

_8 Frooti 24.5%_

_9 Maaza 19.3%_

Needless to say the data beg the question of what type of pesticide levels would be found in juice, tea and coffee?

Research on vegetables in Kenya has shown a bioaccumulation of residual chemicals largely resulting from farmers not following General Accepted Principles (GAP) on pesticide usage. 

Determination of Pesticide Residues in Locally Consumed Vegetables in Kenya (2015)

The challenge of monitoring pesticides in foods is not specific to developing countries. EU countries also face challenges

This presentation from the World Health Organization (WHO) provides more details on the negative health effects from pesticides, especially in children.

Kenya is poised to dramatically increase manufacturing activity as a means of improving economic growth and quality of life. Kenya is signatory to multiple chemical safety agreements such as:

Basel Conventionon the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal; 

Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs);  

Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances; 

Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.

Nationally, legislation on chemicals is overseen by NEMA as well as the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 2015 which is the purview of the Ministry of Health.

Enforcement is handled by the Ministry of Labour's Directorate of Occupational Safety and Health Services (DOSHS)

This information is shared not as a scare tactic but rather as a resource. If any farmer or manufacturer has doubts or requires guidance about chemical safety, these are the first level entities to contact

The most important lesson to remember about chemical safety is that the information we don't know greatly exceeds the information we know. As a result, it is important for county governments to design chemical safety monitoring systems. 

The following WHO study from Slovenia provides useful guidelines on how to develop collaborative biomonitoring systems for tracking exposure and epidemiological incidents. 

Pharmaceuticals, pesticides, climate change related chemicals, nanotechnologies, endocrine disruptors, and mutagenic compounds are emerging issues for inclusion in biomonitoring systems. An extensive excerpt has been used to facilitate local understanding of the scope of the issues. 

Chemical safety and protection of human health: the Slovenian experience

More than 100 000 substances that are used for industrial and general purposes in developed countries can affect the health of humans either by themselves or in the form of compounds and preparations. Despite more than 30 years of regulation of chemicals in Europe, there remains a general lack of information and knowledge about the end uses and hazardous properties of most of the approximately 30 000 existing substances currently available in the European Union (EU). Humans are exposed to these substances directly through the daily use of numerous chemical products (such as food additives, cleaning agents, cosmetic products, biocides, colours and lacquers) and consumer products (toys, electric and electronic goods, clothes, furniture, floor and wall linings and construction materials). In their life-cycles, these substances are released into the environment, and humans are exposed to them or their breakdown products. 

The possible effects of the majority of these substances on health have not yet been established, as only an insignificant number of them have been tested with regard to the effect on the developing child’s organism or of long-term exposures to low doses of a mix of substances. Some characteristics and effects of hazardous chemicals (such as the impact of exposure to low doses of some chemicals on the functioning of the hormone system, persistency and bio-accumulation) have been investigated and evaluated only recently as knowledge about them has increased. Studies of the cumulative and/or combined effects of simultaneous exposure to multiple substances have only recently been developed.  

In addition, these substances are currently being produced and used in other forms, such as nanomaterials, which have completely different characteristics and ways of affecting living organisms. There are a lot of gaps in knowledge about the effects on human health of chemicals in nanoform. 

Taken as a whole, consolidated action is required to address these challenges and to ensure the protection of human health and prevention of diseases caused by exposure to chemicals.  

This publication describes how, in Slovenia, the health sector is working in the chemical safety area, and the central role played by the health sector and health care institutions in managing chemicals and the protection of human health from hazardous chemicals.

Additional insights on nanotechnologies can be found here

As Kenyans, let us not be complacent about health and safety issues or chemical safety. Let us use our creativity and innovation to develop solutions to reduce both risk and exposure. This is an area where jobs abound for university graduates with entreprenerial talent. Not all important jobs are in FinTech or Social Apps. (-:

Feel free to contact CSTI with questions pertaining to biomonitoring of environmental problems or climate change problems and the use of chemicals. We sell micro-chemistry kits that are very useful for fieldwork. 

Watch "sulphur oxygen method" on YouTube for a demostration of the use of the micro chemistry kit.

Give us a call or send us a note:

+254 735 200 458 

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