Nagaland: NHAK cautions on dangers of formalin laced foodstuff

Nagaland: NHAK cautions on dangers  of formalin laced foodstuff
Hordes of formalin laced fishes which were destroyed by Food Safety personnel at Kohima Municipal Council dumping site on June 25. (File Photo)

Draws link between the preservative and increasing chronic kidney & liver diseases in Nagaland


DIMAPUR, JULY 18 (MExN): With the state health department continuing its move to detect and destroy formalin laced fish and crustacean products in Nagaland, the Naga Hospital Authority Kohima (NHAK) today issued a public advisory listing out the effects of formalin on the human body.


It further went on to postulate that the use of formalin as food preservative may be a cause for the increasing number of chronic kidney and liver diseases in Nagaland state.


Formalin is a toxic substance that can kill bacteria and virus, and prolong the shelf life of food stuffs by protecting against deterioration caused by microorganism. But at the same time it can damage human cells.


There are reports that currently formalin is being used widely and illegally in fish to keep it fresh, the NHAK observed. It added that the widespread use of formalin in the preservation of fish, meat, fruits, vegetables and milk for long term preservation poses a massive threat to public health at an alarming level.


It informed that several studies on experimental animals demonstrated a wide number of toxic effects including stomach lesions, allergy, asthma, abdominal pain and vomiting.


“Experiments on animals on ingestion of formalin showed pharyngeal and gastric irritation with a significant increase in the thickness of stomach lining epithelium and irritation to the mucus membrane. Formalin is significantly related with cancer particularly nasopharyngeal cancer in humans through inhalation during occupational exposure and can cause gastrointestinal cancer when administered with drinking water in high concentration. Ingestion of large amount of formalin can cause severe abdominal pain, vomiting, cancer, renal injury and possible death in humans,” it warned.


The statement went on to add that due to abundant use of formalin in different food items and consumption of the foods adulterated with this dangerous chemical, a huge number of population, particularly the kids and the elderly, are exposing themselves everyday to severe health hazard.


“Experiments on mice after thirty-days of oral administration of formalin showed significant effects on the kidneys and liver. The animals fed with formalin mixed food showed that glomeruli (which is responsible for the normal functioning of the kidney) were degenerated, shrunken, ruptured and deformed. Similar damage to the cells of the liver was also observed,” the NHAK said.


It further informed that similar effects in the human kidneys and liver apart from other tissues/organs may occur following long term ingestion of formalin laced food stuffs.


The NHAK further stated that this “probably explains the increasing number of chronic kidney diseases requiring dialysis and chronic liver diseases in the Naga population of late.”


Formalin is a 37-50% aqueous solution of formaldehyde used as an antiseptic, disinfectant and as a preservative. To prevent polymerisation of formaldehyde solution, about 10-15% of methyl alcohol is added to form formalin.


It is a highly toxic “systemic poison” that is well absorbed by inhalation, the NHAK said. It has extensive uses such as in adhesive and plastic, pressed wood products as nail hardener and polish, cosmetic, disinfectants and recently as illegal preservative of food stuffs. In air it is readily broken down by sunlight, with a half-life of approximately 30-50 minutes but in liquid form, it is stable over time.


Formaldehyde is also quickly absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract following ingestion and from the respiratory tract following inhalation which makes it a dangerous chemical to be used as preservative.


However, it is inadequately absorbed following dermal contact. The vapor is a severe respiratory tract and skin irritant and on contact can cause severe burns to the eyes and skin.