The Naga Hospital Authority, Kohima (NHAK) has issued a public advisory listing out the effects of formalin in human body while drawing link between the preservative and increasing chronic kidney and liver diseases in Nagaland.
The NHAK move follows the Nagaland Health Department’s continued endeavour to detect and destroy formalin-laced fish and crustacean products in Nagaland.
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It said use of formalin as food preservative may be a cause for the increasing number of chronic kidney and liver diseases in the State.
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.
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.
The advisory stated that formalin is a highly toxic ‘systemic poison’ that is well-absorbed by inhalation, adding 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, it further said.
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 advisory said 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.