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Agbogbloshie Ghana Society

Agbogbloshie: Beef Cattle in Contaminated Landscapes

Photos: Beef from Agbogbloshie contaminated cows — ranching in an area once listed alongside Chernobyl and Norilsk — may be entering the food chain.

June 13, 2020

Beef cattle contamination: A herd of African beef cattle at rest in an Agbogbloshie e-waste dumpsite. Just near a spot where electrical cables were being burned for the copper materials inside, exposing them to toxic substances such as lead, cadmium, and dioxins. Agbogbloshie doubles as the largest open food market in Accra. Researchers fear beef from the area may be entering the food chain. Copyright © 2020 Muntaka Chasant

Photos: Beef from Agbogbloshie contaminated cows — ranching in an area once listed alongside Chernobyl and Norilsk — may be entering the food chain.

A question for Accra (Ghana’s capital city) residents: Have you ever wondered where your beef comes from?

Agbogbloshie market is the largest open food market in Accra, with many people driving from the hinterlands to pick up low-priced beef, fish, vegetables, and fruits from the area.

Just near the market is the Agbogbloshie scrapyard, an area once ranked alongside Chernobyl, the 1986 nuclear accident site in Ukraine.

Agbogbloshie is infamous due to its heavy metals pollution from years 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 the area?

I won’t drag this, but read the 4 facts about Agbogbloshie before you jump below to look at the photographs:

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

Sources

  1. http://www.fao.org/3/a-i6369e.pdf
  2. http://www.worstpolluted.org/docs/TopTenThreats2013.pdf
  3. https://www.ban.org/news/2019/4/24/rotten-eggs-e-waste-from-europe-poisons-ghanas-food-chain
  4. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/290519876_Exploratory_Health_Assessment_of_Chemical_Exposures_at_E-Waste_Recycling_and_Scrapyard_Facility_in_Ghana
  5. https://www.epa.gov/lead/hazard-standards-lead-paint-dust-and-soil-tsca-section-403
  6. http://www.fao.org/3/a-i6369e.pdf
  7. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1445077/
  8. https://allafrica.com/stories/201906110589.html

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