* Burning coal can release toxic gases including Benzene, Toluene
* Sheikh Zayed doctor says food toxicity major concern in country
LAHORE: Coal used for barbeques sometimes releases toxic gases and vapours which are inhaled by customers and absorbed in the food and may cause serious health problems, experts have told Daily Times.
With the drop in temperature throughout the city, people are flocking to different hotels and stalls for barbequed kababs and tikka. These people also stand close to the grills and inhale the smoke and gases released from the burning coal.
Toxic gasses: University of Engineering and Technology (UET) scientist Dr AR Saleemi told Daily Times that coal could emit highly toxic gases including Benzene, Toluene, Zylene and also vapours of heavy metals, adding that people directly inhaled these gases that were highly hazardous for their health. He said that customers often stood near the grills to ensure that the food was properly cooked, was a dangerous practice.
He suggested that food should not be prepared on coals but if it was necessary, direct contact with coal should be minimised. He said that most vendors in the city prepared their food in cramped spaces, which maximised the exposure to harmful gases. He advised that food should not be overcooked or burnt as burnt food contained large amounts of carbon, which is hazardous for health.
Food toxicity: Sheikh Zayed Hospital Doctor Masaub Umair said that food toxicity was a major concern in the country. He said that Benzene was used in aftershave lotion because of its pleasant smell, as well as in industrial solvents used for degreasing metals, adding that it could be severely toxic if inhaled in a gaseous form. He said that low levels of Benzene were already found in tobacco smoke, the exhaust of motor vehicles and industrial emissions.
He said that short-term inhaling of high levels of Benzene could result in death, while prolonged exposure would cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, headaches, tremors and unconsciousness. He also said that eating or drinking food that contained high levels of the chemical could cause vomiting, dizziness, sleeplessness and convulsions. Talking about the hazards of Toluene, he said that the chemical could cause cardiovascular problems, as well as adversely affecting the reproductive or respiratory system.
By Abdul Manan