Ministry of Health research

Turkey: Pesticide levels too high in some fruits and veg

The Ministry of Health in Turkey has conducted comprehensive research in Antalya, Ergene and Dilovasi where the mortality rates from cancer between 2011 – 2016 were higher than the rest of the country. Thousands of samples were taken from products grown in these regions and also from people living in these areas. 

The research, which shed led on the impact of environmental factors on cancer, was not made available to the public, however sources indicate that the residue of pesticides was much higher than acceptable limits in various fruits and vegetables such as green bean, pepper, cucumber, lettuce, parsley, strawberry, plum and apple which is detrimental to the general environment and health of the consumers. 

According to the report, hydrocarbon residue was detected in water which was also known for its carcinogenic affect. 

According to a report by the Cumhuriyet newspaper, the data from the World Health Organization indicates that 16 % of the deaths in the world are caused by cancer. 

In Turkey, this figure is only 13 % however it shows significant variance from region to region. In Thrase region, the percentage of deaths due to cancer is around 25 % whereas the number increases to 37 % in Dilovasi, a district located in the northwestern city of Kocaeli. 

Continuous exposure to carcinogenic chemicals is known as the biggest cause of cancer. Thus how much these chemicals are in an environment for how long and the exposure of the people in the area is the determining factor for the difference in the percentage of cancer cases seen across different regions.
In the research a total of 1,380 food samples are examined for 332 different types of pesticide residue. 106 pesticides which are classified as harmful to the hormonal system was also covered in the research.

38 % of the samples from Kocaeli, 60 % of the samples from Antalya and 14% of samples from the Ergene region tested positive for pesticide residue; thus Antalya was the city with the highest pesticide rate. 40 % of the all samples have tested positive for at least one type of pesticide residue and 73 types of pesticide residue were detected in total.

The more concerning news was that 17.3 % of samples tested well above the allowed maximum pesticide residue according to food and safety regulations. 

There is significant industrial activity in Dilovasi and Ergene regions so these industrial facilities may be to blame to a certain extent for the presence of the chemicals in the environment however there is very limited industrial activity in Antalya, a city known to be the main source of the fruit and vegetable production in Turkey. Therefore, it is impossible to blame the high rates of pesticide to any industrial facility in the area. 

The report by the Ministry of Health has stated that only 2 to 3 % of the samples were above the residue limit however a close examination of data published indicated a much higher number. This is not only very damaging for the health of the people, both living in the area and the people consuming the products, it could also potentially impact Turkey’s exports in the near future.

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