Nigeria, despite its rich cultural tapestry and diverse landscapes, is faced by a lot of challenges, many of which are a result of its economic growth and rapid urbanisation. One of such challenges, that is mostly ignored, has to do with the safety and quality of its drinking water. Cancer rates are increasingly rising, questioning the connection between consumption of sachet water and potential carcinogens. Sachet water is widely known as “pure water” in Nigeria and is considered a staple source of drinking water for majority of the population, particularly residents of urban and semi-urban areas.
Considering the tropical climate in Nigeria, it is not surprising for these sachets to exposure to extreme heat, especially when stored inappropriately or sold by street vendors. As much as heat exposure affects the taste of the water, it is also likely to cause a silent chemical leaching process. Epichlorohydrin is a compound that contributes to the production of epoxy resins and specific kinds of plastics. When plastic containers, produced through this chemical, experience heat exposure, epichlorohydrin leaches into the water and increases consumers’ risk of cancer.
Producers should test their water regularly for contaminants.
Although no study certainly links consumption of sachet water to the increasing cancer rates in Nigeria, epichlorohydrin’s presence, the nationwide use of sachets and the prevalent got weather warrants urgent intervention and investigation. The standards that oversee the production of sachet water in Nigeria have their focus on microbial contamination. Meanwhile, chemical contamination requires more attention. To protect consumers, awareness needs to be made to public concerning proper storage practices and potential risks of consumption after heat exposure.
It is essential for concerned authorities to conduct comprehensive research on this development. Sachet water samples from different regions should be studied, especially those that have exposure to heat. With this, there will be more clarity on the depth of chemical contamination. Manufacturers are also advised to try other options to replace plastics produced with epichlorohydrin. Distributors and vendors should be educated on safe storage practices. Producers should also test their water on a regular basis for other kinds of contaminants.
The country should develop its water infrastructure.
Besides the efforts made by regulations and the industry, communities also have the responsibility of pooling resources together for investment in cool storage solutions. Likewise, pressure from consumers can encourage manufacturers to consider adoption of safer packaging alternatives. The country must also be concerned with developing its water infrastructure in its entirety. This will ensure that all citizens have easy access to safe, clean, and chemical-free drinking water. The threat of epichlorohydrin present in plastic water represents the wider difficulties faced by the country in its efforts towards ensuring the safety and health of every citizen.
With the enforcement of proactive measures, collective responsibility, and stringent oversight, Nigeria will successfully address this issue and achieve its goal of providing clean and safe drinking water for citizens. Lessons received from the international community has proven that frequent and comprehensive testing can figure out threats before they affect the public. Involvement of local communities to help with monitoring and reporting could serve as a system of early warning. Technical expertise and guidance can also be gotten through collaboration with international health bodies like the World Health Organization (WHO).
Biodegradable options should be considered through plant-based materials.
Additionally, schools and educational institutions are saddled with the responsibility of the understanding of future generations about environmental health. Topics associated with water safety, sustainable practices, and environmental health would be helpful. The health risks associated with plastic packaging emphasises the need for innovation in packaging. Biodegradable options should be considered as plant-based materials could prove to be a safer option. Also, environmental impacts can be reduced through recycling of sachets. Partnerships with environmental NGOs will further resolve the situation.