June 13, 2020
14 Min read time
Photos: Ranching in an area once listed alongside Chernobyl and Norilsk. Beef from Agbogbloshie's contaminated environment is entering Ghana's food chain.
A question for Accra (Ghana’s capital city) residents: Have you ever wondered where your beef comes from?
The Agbogbloshie market is the largest open food market in Accra.
Many people drive from the hinterlands to pick up low-priced beef, fish, vegetables, and fruits from the area.
Agbogbloshie is infamous due to its high heavy metals pollution levels — from more than a decade of informal e-waste recycling.
This is how the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) characterized Agbogbloshie in 2016:
“Agbogbloshie is a toxic threat. The burning of e-waste releases toxic fumes that spread throughout the community, threatening city dwellers. The toxic chemical fumes released get into the food market and get inside the soil throughout the area when it rains. Indeed, high levels of toxins have been discovered in soil and food samples, as these chemicals stay in the food chain.”1
Agbogbloshie is a toxic threat. The burning of e-waste releases toxic fumes that spread throughout the community, threatening city dwellers. The toxic chemical fumes released get into the food market and get inside the soil throughout the area when it rains. Indeed, high levels of toxins have been discovered in soil and food samples, as these chemicals stay in the food chain.FAO
Why do Accra residents eat low-quality food from Agbogbloshie?
I won’t drag this, but read the 4 facts about Agbogbloshie before you jump below to look at the source of your food.
Four (4) Facts About Agbogbloshie, Ghana
- Pure Earth and Green Cross Switzerland in 2013 rated Agbogbloshie among the top ten most polluted environments in the world. The list, not ranked, included places such as Chernobyl, Dzerzhinsk, Kabwe, The Citarum River, and Norilsk.2
- A study (2019)3 by the Basel Action Network and the International Pollutants Elimination Network found high levels of toxins such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and chlorinated dioxins in free-range chicken eggs at Agbogbloshie, fearing this may be contaminating the food chain.
- Jack Caranavos and other researchers in 2013 found lead levels as high as 18,125 parts per million (ppm) in a soil sample collected from around Agbogbloshie.4 US EPA’s recommended safe levels for lead in bare soil in a non-play area such as Agbogbloshie is 1,200 ppm.5
- The FAO in 2016 was so concerned about high levels of toxins that were found in the soil and food samples from around the area that it declared Agbogbloshie “a toxic threat.”6
Again, why do Accra residents eat food from Agbogbloshie?
Beef Cattle At Agbogbloshie Photos
There are several cattle ranches around the Agbogbloshie scrapyard.
The cattle around the area live in deplorable conditions. They forage on nearby e-waste dumpsites and drink from heavily contaminated water in the area.
PCBs, for instance, are resistant to degradation, thus persist in soil for long periods.
Beef cattle acquire residues7 from foraging on land contaminated with heavy metals from the burning of cables and dismantling of e-waste.
The photos below don’t capture enough about this situation.
Urban contaminated lands represent significant risks to farm livestock that are bred for food in Accra. This is in addition to the use of scrap tires to singe8 livestock (in Accra).
When will the Government of Ghana act?
Copyright © 2020 Muntaka Chasant
June 13, 2020
14 Min read time