Examining Wrong Use Of Formalin And Mosquito Nets

Mosquito NetThat Ghanaians are becoming very creative and innovative in the usage of certain things is encouraging. It is, however, disturbing that the results of such creativities and innovations pose serious health threats to the citizenry.

Recent media reports on the misuse of formalin and insecticide treated mosquito nets is a matter of great concern as the adverse effect of its misuse cannot be readily imagined.

Formalin  is a solution of formaldehyde in water used as a disinfectant and to preserve biological specimens. Formaldehyde found in formalin is a colourless flammable, strong-smelling chemical used in building materials and producing a number of house hold products. Formaldehyde according to the international Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) is a classified known human carcinogen (a cancer causing substance).

It is used in the textile industry by finishers to make fabrics crease resistance and also as a disinfectant in killing most bacteria and fungi that contaminate a vaccine during production.

Formalin is a key in the manufacturing of automobiles, electrical systems, engine blocks, door panels, axels and brake shoes.
It is also used in photography for process C-14 colour (negative film) stabilizer in final wash step as well as in the process E-16 (pre-bleach step) to obviate the need for it in the final stage.

Despite the original uses of formalin, precisely formaldehyde, some fishmongers, especially at Axim in the Western Region are reportedly using it as a preservative to keep their fishes wholesome for longer days so as to meet their profit outlays.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency  (EPA), formalin can cause bronchitis a lung disease resulting from an inflammation of the bronchi of the lungs causing the bronchial epithelial cells to stop functioning if it is inhaled. This effect is open mainly to fishmongers who apply the formalin to preserve fishes.

Again, it can cause death when suddenly swallowed. This effect is prone to innocent children who might be present during the application of the formalin to the fishes in case they should dip their fingers into the solution which is colourless and put the soiled finger into their mouths or they might just pick it and drink it since they do not know what exactly the solution is.

Formalin, according to the US EPA, when taken into the stomach through any means can cause gastritis thus the inflammation of the lining of the stomach and it is characterized by (symptom) nausea loss of appetite and upper abdominal discomfort or pains.
THE USE OF MOSQUITO dates back from the mid 20th century but became common in the early 21st century. In 2002, a number of countries began scaling-up the free or highly subsidised provision of Insecticides Treated Nets (ITNs).

Mosquito nets come in three forms, namely the untreated nets, (ITNs) and Long Lasting Insecticides Nets (LLINs). Towards the achievements of the United Nations Millennium Development  Goals by the World Health Organisations (WHO) Global Malaria Programme (WHO/GMP), recommended that mosquito nets especially LLINs should be distributed intensively to achieve coverage of population at risk of malaria infections. Mosquito nets are made from cotton, polythene, polyester or nylon.  These materials used in making mosquito nets can come in a mesh of 1.2mm and 0.5mm. The former mesh size stops mosquitoes while the latter checks other biting insects such as biting midges.

A single wash of mosquito nets will not reduce the effectiveness of the insecticides in it. Mosquito nets have to be washed three times before the effectiveness of the insecticides in it can be reduced. LLINs have the insecticides incorporated within the netting material and around the fibers.

LLIN remain effective even after years of wash but few of the insecticides in it can dissolve in water.
ITNs contain the insecticides pyrethroids and piperonyl butoxides (PBO) as the LLINs contain the insecticides deltamethrin, alpha-cypermethrin and permethrin.

Some fishermen are reportedly using the mosquito nets as fishing nets. Mosquito nets are being used as sieving nets by some women producers of local cassava dough (abgelema or bankye). Some people are also said to be using new mosquito nets as rubbish covers.
When ITNS are used as fishing nets, or sieving nets the fishes or the cassava dough become contaminated with the insecticide pyrethroids.

According to the Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, when pyrethroids get into the human system it can cause damage to the nervous system and a high amount of it can cause headache, difficulty in breathing, nausea and vomiting.

Pyrethroids, according to Kaplan’s Harp Care Collection can cause excessive estrogen levels in females and low sperm count in men. To the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry, pyrethroids when taken into the body can cause muscle twitching, reduce one’s energy and change in mental state..

One must note that pyrethroids when exposed to the sun break down rapidly so we can imagine how much we are being poisoned through the cassava dough we consume because the production process involves placing the dough in the sun.

LLINs when used for fishing or sieving can result in the dough or the fresh fishes getting contaminated the insecticides deltamethrin and alpha-cypermethrin or permethrin. However, deltamethrin is not soluble in water so it will be hard for it to contaminate.

To the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry Alpha-cypermethrin when taken into the body through the mouth can cause facial paresthesia (a sensation of burning, pricking, itching or tingling with no obvious cause)
Researches conducted by the Kaplan’s Harp Care Collection states that permethrin can cause headaches, nasal and respiratory irritation, abdominal pains, dizziness and vomiting.

According to the American Environmental Protection Agency, anyone poisoned through any of these insecticides or experienced any of these symptoms or illness and does not give much attention to it can die prematurely or unexpectedly.

The use of mosquito nets as rubbish covers on the other hand is not much of a problem but the concern here is the fact that certain agencies have volunteered to collaborate with the Ghana Health Service in distributing 12 million mosquito nets funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) at a huge cost of 20 million dollars to people, just for it to be used to cover rubbish.

I therefore would recommend that since these wrong uses of mosquito nets are becoming an increasing trend; we should be vigilant in respect of what we eat and how we use certain things. We should also seek the right ways of using and preserving things rather than adopting very dangerous ways.

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