• Saturday, May 18, 2024
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How tyre-roasted Ponmo is a delicious risk


Cooked cowhide, otherwise known as ‘ponmo‘ in Nigeria, is a favourite meat enjoyed by millions of Nigerians. Many migrants to Nigeria have also fallen in love with it.

Having a proper meal without a slice of pomo is considered taboo in some parts of the country.
However, researchers have shown that pomo may be poisonous if processed by burning it in a tyre or plastics-generated fire, as in many abattoirs across Nigeria.

The U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (2012) revealed that “tyre-derived fuel” (TDF) contained several heavy metals such as lead (Pd), zinc (Zn), and Copper (Cu) that could be carcinogenic when exposed to consumers over a long period.

The Veterinary Council of Nigeria (VCN) also warned against consumption of such meat, stressing that it could contain cancer-causing chemicals from the burnt tyres.

“The more we eat those meats roasted with tyres, the more we are prone to health risks.
“There are alternatives and healthy ways of de-skinning meat rather than using tyres. Burning tyres contaminates the meat, degrades the environment and pollutes the atmosphere,” Dr Fadipe Oladotun, an official of VCN told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).

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Thick smoke billows continuously at the Dei-Dei abattoir, located on the outskirts of Abuja. Idris and other sweating young men work energetically, hauling large chunks of hide skinned from slaughtered cows into the smearing fire filled with tyres and plastics.

Under the heat from the sun and fire, they are assisted by Aisha and a group of women whose dresses have turned black from regularly working in the smoke.

Aisha and her team are washing the chunks of ‘ponmo’ in equally blackened water and getting them ready for the market as vans take turns to load their portions.

As the fires go down, more tyres and plastics are hauled to further fuel the inferno as the butchers work to meet the large demand in the ever-increasing ‘ponmo’ market.

This writer’s visit to major abattoirs in Abuja, which include the Karu, Dei-dei, Kubwa and Gwagwalada abattoirs, showed that despite the health risks associated with tyres plastics-processed ponmo, it remains a common practice.

At Karu abattoir, tucked in the outskirts of Abuja, the unavoidable welcome by the stench of filthy environment occasioned by years of burnt tyres and plastics.

The pollution is palpable even to the most skeptic of environmental contamination.

Isa Adamu said he had been involved in the business of roasting slaughtered animals with tyres for no fewer than five years.

According to him, they burn scrap tyres to roast the meat because the tyres are cheaper fuel sources, though they are not entirely ignorant of the environmental and health implications.

“We use these tyres for the meat because it burns sharp sharp and the used tyres are cheap to get around, so it makes our work easier,” he said.

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Adamu said he was aware of the environmental hazard of this practice but claimed he was not aware it could contaminate the meat and be carcinogenic.

The NAN investigation also shows that the practice is rampant in Abuja due to weak efforts by the authorities to address it.

A Professor of Environmental Science at Addis Ababa University (AAU), Seyoum Leta, who said the practice also exists in some African countries, stressed the need to stop this harmful practice.

He said doing so would save potential cancer cases and reduce the emission of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) from those abattoirs.

“Burning scrap tyres will have not only health effects it will also largely contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and hence climate change with its implications for climate change.

“This practice releases what we call SOx, NOx, VOC and PM, which are precursors of GHGs. Burning these resources is also a waste of resources as this can be recyclable material,” he said.

Leta told NAN that several alternatives can be explored by Nigeria, such as biomass-based briquettes, which are eco-friendly.

“Biomass-based briquettes are generally considered green technology compared to petroleum-based fuel such as tyres, so this is a good alternative in this regard,” he said.

The don advised Nigerians to embrace recycling scrap tyres into beautiful furniture, shoes, mats and tiles.

Katharina Elleke, Project Designer, FlipFlopi Project Foundation, an East Africa-based NGO that built a sailing boat from recycled plastics in Kenya, emphasised the need for Nigerians to embrace recycling plastics and tyres.

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“We are East Africa’s circular economy movement that built the world’s first 100% recycled plastic sailing dhow.

“We use heritage boat building and waste-plastic innovation to create public engagement and drive policy action to ban all single-use plastics and ensure all other plastics are part of a circular economy,” she said.

Elleke said African countries, including Nigeria, can tackle plastic pollution, through an effective plastic recycling system and keying into the circular economy model.

The Managing Director of FREEE Recycle Limited, Ifedolapo Runsewe, said with Nigeria generating over three million scrap tyres annually, much more must be done to tackle the environmental/health challenge they pose.

She said recycling such tyres would greatly reduce environmental pollution and boost Nigeria’s economy.

Sustainable environment stakeholders say all hands must be on deck in creating awareness and the right investment in tyre recycling while stepping up sensitisation and sanctions against the burning of tyres.

They say this will engender good health and economic wellbeing of Nigerians.