Milk of death

The cargo ship mv-emb-t Emerald recently left Kenya's port of Mombasa loaded with 100,000 kilograms of radioactive milk powder. The potentially lethal commodity was being returned to Rotterdam, Netherlands, its port of origin. Top officials from Kenya's Radiation Protection Board under its health ministry of health, said that the country did not have the capacity to safely discard or destroy the radioactive powdered milk, which presented a major environmental and health hazard.

However, the shocking discovery of the radioactive powdered milk whose real origins is said to have been Ukraine, is a strong and clear indicator that Africa still remains the favourite dumping ground for all sorts of hazardous wastes from the industrialised north.

"Analysis of the controversial milk consignment from Ukraine found it to be highly contaminated with caesium 137 and potassium 40," says Norah Olembo, head, Radiation Protection Board. "The contamination with radioactive caesium 137 was to the tune of 53,418 Becquerels (bq) per kg against the European Economic Community's (eec) permissible levels of 370 bq per kg," she added. The radioactive isotope of k40 reached 945,280 bq per kg, while in the permissible levels in the eec is 0 bq per kg," says Olembo. Kenya has only 2 appropriate facilities for measuring and detecting radio contamination at levels beginning from 50 bq per kg.

Experts here warn that apart from the radioactive isotopes accumulating in the liver, there are also chances of increased cases of cancer, genetic mutation or disorders in the future generations.

Local observers say that the dangerous trend would be curbed if the developed nations came up with laws to severely punish those who exports hazardous wastes, potentially lethal and toxic foodstuffs to African nations where the chances of detection remain minimal.

Since the chances of increased radioactivity getting into the food chain was very high, the poison milk had to be shipped to its port of origin.