By Charles Omole
On a recent trip to Lagos, I had an interesting experience which has given me a better understanding of why the mortality rate in our country is so high.
I wanted to have some roasted plantain popularly called Boli. So I sent my PA to buy three. When he returned, I decided it was not fair to eat all three by myself as we were about to embark on a journey to the other end of town.
So I gave one to my driver and one to my PA and I had the last one. About one hour into the journey, I started feeling a bit sick with serious stomach pains. But I ignored it, believing it would go away. I cut short a meeting two hour later due to the continuing pain. It was then I asked my driver and PA if they were feeling OK. To my surprise; they have both been in serious pain for over an hour but did not tell me because they knew how important the meeting I was attending was. To cut the long story short, we quickly agreed that the only thing we all had in common was the Boli we ate.
Some of my Boli was still remaining; so I gave to a friend who had a laboratory to analyse.
He came back that the roasted plantain was contaminated with Calcium Carbide. I was shocked.
He later told me that it is a common practice in Nigeria for people to use Carbide to ripen plantain very quickly. The plantain will ripen within 48hrs, even though it would have taken a week or more naturally.
In a 2010 paper “Eating artificially ripened fruits is harmful” Calcium carbide is found to be extremely hazardous to the human body as it contains traces of arsenic and phosphorus. It is banned in many countries of the world, but it is freely used in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Nigeria and other poor countries. Thus we are at risk of short-term and long-term health effects simply by eating fruits that are induced to ripen.
Calcium carbide CaC2 is used to easily generate low levels of ethylene gas which can hasten the (outside at least) ripening of fruits like bananas, mangoes etc. But it is also damaging to health. Regular exposure will lead to a build up that can be fatal.
Just before visiting the laboratory to give the sample to my friend, I instructed the driver to drive to a major pharmacy in Lagos nearby to us. They were given some medication that calmed them and countered the effect of the carbide.
I had already prayed and reinforced myself by His power in the Inner man. So we all survived it. But imagine those that eat this daily and build up the poison in their system. This is why people die “suddenly” in Nigeria.
So I insisted my driver visits the woman selling the Boli the following day to let her know of our experience. On getting to the woman and explaining, she simply drove him away not to spoil market for her. She was apparently aware of the possible effect of her use of carbide but was too profit focused to care. People around her later said they have always wondered why she never eats her own Boli but buy food from others around.
Needless to say, that was my last Boli of the trip. Now I am not saying all Boli in Nigeria are poisonous. Given that the use of carbide is prevalent, how do you know which plantain is not contaminated?
So if you are travelling to Nigeria, be careful what you eat and where you eat. And for those that live in Nigeria, it is possible you may have built some tolerance for this poison (due to regular ingestion), but regular consumption will cause long-term health damage and could be fatal.
This greed-driven practice is common in our nation and we all need to be on guard to avoid unnecessary complications. Wisdom is profitable to direct. God help our people.
Calcium Carbide is a dangerous and corrosive chemical. Carbide ripened fruit on consumption cause several harmful effects to human health. It has cancer causing properties and contains traces of arsenic and phosphorous hydride. Consumption of fruits ripened with Calcium Carbide causes stomach upset because the alkaline substance is an irritant that erodes the mucosal tissues in the stomach and disrupts intestinal functions.
According to experts; The early symptoms of carbide poisoning include vomiting, diarrhoea with or without blood, burning sensation of the chest and abdomen, thirst, weakness, difficulty in swallowing, irritation or burning in the eyes and skin, permanent eye damage, ulcers on the skin, irritation in the mouth, nose and throat. Throat sores, cough, and wheezing and shortness of breath may also occur soon after exposure to the chemical. Higher exposure may cause a build-up of fluids in the lungs.
For instance; eating artificially ripened mangoes causes stomach upset because the alkaline substance is an irritant that erodes the mucosal tissue in the stomach and disrupts intestinal function. Chronic exposure to the chemical could lead to peptic ulcer.