Nacano, De Freitas, and Barbosa (2014) conducted a study to evaluate seasonal dietary exposures to arsenic, cadmium, and lead among Brazilian school-going children. The researchers analyzed the potential for toxic exposures through the consumption of foods served in public schools. The public health significance of the research question is the growing concern regarding human exposure to toxic elements. This concern arises from increased globalization, change in food production processes, and increased pollution (Ahluwalia, 2005). Based on the origin and scope of this concern, the research question has a global significance, as opposed to a local significance. Stated differently, exposure to toxic elements is not a phenomenon that is unique to Brazil alone because most developing countries suffer the same challenge (Ahluwalia, 2005).
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An increase in health complications, brought about by exposure to toxic elements, is a modern-day phenomenon because pollution has increased through globalization and industrialization (Ahluwalia, 2005). Furthermore, increased concentrations of people in urban centers have increased the risk of toxic exposure to multiple population groups (Ahluwalia, 2005). While experts affirm this fact, few empirical studies have identified the most common sources of exposure to toxic elements (Nacano et al., 2014). Furthermore, they have not fully understood the types of populations that suffer the highest risk of contamination. Nacano et al. (2014) filled this research gap by investigating how exposure to toxic elements could affect children who eat mass-produced foods. In the study, the authors highlighted a potential source of exposure, of toxic elements, to a specific demographic (students who consume food in public schools).
Nacano et al. (2014) explained the different processes they used to undertake their research. They explained how they collected different food samples for testing, by storing them in plastic bags/bottles and obtaining adequate quantities (50g) for analysis. For purposes of quality assurance, the researchers measured their findings with international standards of food contamination, as described by the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the World Health Organization (Nacano et al., 2014). Rightly, the researchers chose this methodology because their findings depended on evaluating food toxicity levels. This observation means that they had to compare their findings with a predetermined set of health standards. While this methodology was useful to the study, I take issue with the sampling procedures chosen by the researchers. Of concern is the researchers’ decision to obtain food samples from only three kitchens. Only one kitchen served food in different public schools. I would change this methodology and expand my data collection process to include more centers for obtaining food samples. It is not enough to investigate the relationship between food consumption in public schools and exposure to toxic elements by analyzing the potential for contamination by taking food samples from only three kitchens.
The findings of the study revealed that the highest levels of toxic elements were present in rice, vegetables, and pork (Nacano et al., 2014). Although toxic metals were present in such food samples, their concentration levels were lower than the standards stipulated by the European Food Safety Authority and the World Health Organization (Nacano et al., 2014). I agree with the author’s findings because metals enter the bloodstream if people consume foods from plants that absorb toxic materials from the ground, directly or indirectly (Ahluwalia, 2005). Animal products also contain metals because they retain them by consuming the plants as well.
The sampled study highlights the importance of always evaluating the quality of food served to children. This is a public health concern because a large population of young people could suffer from health complications that arise from consuming contaminated foods (Ahluwalia, 2005). Therefore, it is important to check the quality of food served to people in public forums (such as public schools), always, because it is difficult to eliminate some toxic elements, in the bloodstream, after contamination.
Ahluwalia, V. (2005). Environmental Pollution and Health. New Delhi, IN: The Energy and Resources Institute.
Nacano, L. R., De Freitas, R., & Barbosa, F. (2014). Evaluation of seasonal dietary exposure to arsenic, cadmium and lead in schoolchildren through the analysis of meals served by public schools of RibeirãoPreto, Brazil. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, 77(7), 367-374.
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