DENTISTS usually warn that excessive intake of sweets and other confectionaries could damage the teeth. Now, experts have also cautioned that consumption of sweets, chocolates and other confectionaries by children may put them at risk of anemia and even kidney problems.
In a new study, researchers warned that the high content of lead and cadmium in many sweets children take may pose significant health risks.
The researchers had estimated health risks associated with lead, cadmium, chromium, Nickel and zinc in commonly consumed candies in 50 sweets, chocolates and chewing gums bought from different stores in Port Harcourt and Uyo in AkwaIbon State.
Daily intake, the target hazard quotient (THQ), the hazard index (HI), and the cancer risk were estimated for children.
About 80% of the samples exceeded the 0.1 mg/kg permissible lead level in candies. Milk sweet had the highest lead to Zinc and Cadmium to Zinc ratios of 0.99 and 0.40 respectively.
For chocolates, the Emperor had the highest lead to zinc (0.50) ratios and Trident had the highest Cadmium to zinc (0.57) ratios.
The calculated percentage provisional tolerable weekly intake (%PTWI) of cadmium from consumption of chocolates and candies was higher than the Joint Expert Committee for Food Additives (JECFA) standard, and the cancer risk of lead, cadmium, and chromium ranged between 10”7 and 10”3.
The 2019 study involved Orish Ebere Orisakwe at the University of Port-Harcourt in collaboration with Zelinjo Nkeiruka Igweze and Nnaemeka Arinze Udowelle. It was published in the journal, Environmental Science and Pollution Research.
A similar finding was reported in Ibadan. In 2015, researchers’ who assessed heavy metal contaminants in biscuits, fruit drinks, concentrates, candy, milk products and carbonated drinks sold, warned that their continuous consumption may be hazardous to health.
The study, published in the International Journal of Biological and Chemical Science involved Adebola RA, Adekanmbi AI and Abiona DL. Twelve different brands of sweet and milk sweets, six different brands of biscuits, 11 different brands of fruit and flavoured concentrates and five different types of liquid drinks, all of popular brands, were collected and tested.
Although the concentrations of these metals in all the samples were found to be lower than their permissible limits, but continuous consumption may be hazardous to health. Accumulation of these heavy metals in the body, over time is hazardous to health.
Dr Ishaiq Omotosho, a biochemical toxicologist and honourary consultant to University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, said lead can easily accumulate in the body with its continuous intake and now manifest in chronic diseases such anaemia and kidney problem.
In addition, he said there are lots of hypothesis on exposure to lead and other heavy metals as causative agent for cancer.
“Lead is still being subjected to verification but others like cadmium and mercury has been substantiated as potential sources of cancer.“
Dr Omotosho, however, stated that children are more vulnerable to the negative effects of heavy metals like lead.
He declared: “They have developing brains that can easily be interfered with when exposed to excessive lead. In fact, for children, there is no safe level of lead exposure because of its long term implications.
“A small child that is exposed to it may not manifest its effect until 10 to 15 years, when the impairment on the brain would have occurred. Often, this may not be reversible.”
A public health expert, Professor Folasade Omokhodion, in a 2015/2016 University of Ibadan inaugural lecture she delivered entitled, “Danger, Men at Work: The Pitfalls, the Perils and The panacea” also warned that the lead level in Nigeria’s environment is unsafe for children.
She cautioned that it may result in decreased intelligence in children, behavioural difficulties and learning problem.
Professor Omokhodion, an occupational medicine and community medicine expert said that a significant proportion of children have blood lead levels of 10 micrograms per decilitre and above.
She declared: “A recent WHO report indicates that even blood lead concentrations as low as 5 micrograms per decilitre, which was once thought to be a “safe level “, may result in decreased intelligence in children, behavioural difficulties and learning problem.”