How NCDs are rooted in chemicals supporting crops’ growth

TANZANIA: IF you are not aware, noncommunicable diseases (NCDs), such as heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes, are the leading causes of death worldwide and represent an emerging global health threat, implying that you are the next victim if you don’t take precaution.

NCDs, also known as chronic diseases, tend to be of long duration and are the result of a combination of genetic, physiological, environmental and behavioural factors.

People of all age groups, regions and countries are affected by NCDs. These conditions are often associated with older age groups, but evidence shows that 17 million NCD deaths occur before the age of 70 years.

Of these premature deaths, 86 per cent are estimated to occur in low- and middle-income countries. Children, adults and the elderly are all vulnerable to the risk factors contributing to NCDs, whether from unhealthy diets, physical inactivity, and exposure to tobacco smoke or the harmful use of alcohol or air pollution.

These diseases are driven by forces that include rapid unplanned urbanisation, globalisation of unhealthy lifestyles and population ageing. Unhealthy diets and a lack of physical activity may show up in people as raised blood pressure, increased blood glucose, elevated blood lipids and obesity.

ALSO READ: NCDs are rooted in chemicals growing food-CEO

These are called metabolic risk factors and can lead to cardiovascular disease, the leading NCD in terms of premature deaths.

Equally, the eradication of hunger and malnutrition is still a significant challenge in most developing countries/low and middle-income countries (LMICs) which rely on agriculture as a source of food and livelihoods.

Concomitantly, these countries are faced with an exponential increase in non-communicable diseases (NCDs) which are disproportionately related to their unhealthy diets.

The urgency to produce nutritious foods in abundance through subsistence farming to control hunger and reduce the NCDs is often in conflict with the profitability and livelihood aspects of agriculture.

Moreover, the increased risks of climate change have threatened agricultural and environmental stability as a result of increased pests and diseases and the introduction of new pests to crops.

This reality has set the stage for the global demand for pesticides. In addition, other public health issues such as the control of malaria and dengue vectors and the suppression of fungal, bacterial, and algal pathogens have further increased the use of pesticides.

Shedding light on this, Tanzania Relief Initiatives (TRI) Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Advocate Ediwn Mugambila has disclosed that one of the biggest risks factors in contracting the non-communicable diseases is rooted in unhealthy diet that is sourced from food fed by chemicals like pesticides in their growth.

Speaking during a round table discussion held in Dar es Salaam, recently attended by various experts in the country, the CEO said that they have decided to commemorate the World Health Month by educating the society on the magnitude of the NCDs, causes as well as coming up with proposed solutions.

Additionally, he said that apart from the discussion they expect to come up with strategies to advise policy and law makers on how the ailments can be tackled by first creating awareness and safety in the public.

According to Advocate Mugambila they are much concerned with the wellbeing of citizens, adding that the issue of health is a human rights first agenda.

He added: “We have been meeting at various forums and talk about excessive use of sugar, salt, excess oil, alcohol, tobacco as stimulants to NonCommunicable Diseases, but still there is one big problem that scientists in this room in our previous research have discovered- that there is a problem bigger than sugar in the area of nutrition and that is chemicals from pesticides in modern agriculture.

“You may say that, I don’t take sugar, oil, salt, but you will go to the store or the market and buy tomatoes that have been grown with very bad chemicals, you will go to the supermarket and purchase carrots, onions, spinach and cook and eat, that is more harmful than the sugar you have avoided.” Stressing on the importance and need to control the quantity of chemicals from pesticides in agriculture for a safer generation, Mr Mugambila said that 13.2 per cent of deaths in Tanzania result from non-communicable diseases.

Moreover, according to the CEO the government spends over 99bn/- annually to treat non-communicable diseases. On her part, Tanzania NCD Alliance Project Manager, Happy Nchimbi said as their discussion aims at shedding light on how pesticides are related to NCDs, from their findings they will inform the society especially users on what quantity is required to keep the consumers safe.

“Because even the information we found in other countries shows that pesticides are not a problem but the problem comes in the use. So, together we have come to join hands with other stakeholders to know the issue of pesticides in order to protect the people from getting further into these epidemic diseases, to see if we Tanzanians can prevent it early,” Ms Happy said.

Modifiable behavioural risk factors

Modifiable behaviours, such as tobacco use, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet and the harmful use of alcohol, all increase the risk of NCDs.

Here, tobacco accounts for over 8 million deaths every year (including from the effects of exposure to secondhand smoking; 1.8 million annual deaths have been attributed to excess salt/sodium intake; more than half of the 3 million annual deaths attributable to alcohol use are from NCDs, including cancer and 830 000 deaths annually can be attributed to insufficient physical activity.

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