timesofummah.com – 5 Calcium Carbide Facts to Avoid in Food. The news about a dawet seller in Jember, East Java, who mixed calcium carbide (carbide) into dawet ice is very troubling. This is because the mixture used is a dangerous chemical that should not be used in food.
However, if you are familiar with carbide, this material is also often used as a synthetic ripening agent for fruit. So, how dangerous is carbide in food and what are the negative effects on health? Check out the full information below.
1. What is carbide?
Chemically, carbide is called calcium carbide (calcium carbide) or with the chemical formula CaC2. This chemical has physical characteristics that are gray or brown in color, similar to stone. Whereas in a pure state, calcium carbide is colorless.
This chemical, which is also commonly known as carbide or calcium acetylide, consists of 85 percent calcium carbide and several other mixed ingredients, such as silicon carbide, calcium phosphide, calcium oxide, calcium nitride, and calcium sulfide.
When reacted with water, carbide can form acetylene gas which is flammable, even has the potential to result in an explosion. In addition, carbide can produce calcium hydroxide which must be watched out for health.
2. Uses of calcium carbide
Launching the journal Toxicology published in 2022, commercially, calcium carbide is commonly used for welding, steel desulfurization (reducing sulfur content in steel), and producing acetylene gas and calcium cyanamide.
In industry, acetylene gas is often used as a fuel because it is flammable and cheap. Meanwhile, calcium cyanamide is usually used for the manufacture of agricultural fertilizers and pesticides.
Not only that, the National Library of Medicine website adds that calcium carbide is also commonly used to make vinyl acetate. It is a common ingredient in the manufacture of paper, glue, plastic film and paint, according to Chemical Safety Facts.
3. Use of calcium carbide for fruit ripening
As mentioned above, calcium carbide can produce acetylene gas when it reacts with water or moisture. Uniquely, this gas has a function similar to ethylene gas in fruit, which is a natural fruit ripening hormone.
For this reason, many people, especially producers, use it to ripen fruit synthetically so they don’t have to wait for the fruit to ripen on the tree. This also simplifies the process of handling fruit when it has to be sent to various destinations.
Unfortunately, this use creates various problems. Carbide fruit ripening cannot produce perfectly ripe fruit. In addition, this process can also reduce the quality of taste and nutritional content of fruit. Even more dangerous, carbide in fruit is also at risk of causing various health side effects.
4. The dangers of consuming foods exposed to calcium carbide
Still from the same journal, commercial calcium carbide is reported to contain arsenic and phosphorus hydride which are harmful to health. When it contaminates food, it can be toxic which can cause acute and chronic conditions.
Calcium carbide can enter the body’s system in two ways, namely ingestion and inhalation. It can be inhaled from aerosols, powders, or residual gaseous products when used for ripening fruit, or entered through food prepared using these chemicals.
Common calcium carbide health side effects are:
- If there is an accidental explosion from the reaction of calcium carbide and water, it can cause serious burns. If it gets into the eyes, it can cause blindness.
- If inhaled in large quantities or as a result of accumulation in fruits, calcium carbide can affect the nervous system and cause prolonged hypoxia, which is a condition of reduced oxygen in the body.
- Calcium carbide is alkaline. When this is ingested or enters the body it can cause irritation of the mouth, nose, and stomach mucosal tissues. It can also cause stomach discomfort.
- Calcium carbide that enters the body can become free radicals. This can cause cell damage and speed up the aging process.
- Other health effects, such as difficulty swallowing, acute irritation, vomiting, dizziness, constant thirst, chronic skin damage, skin ulcers, and kidney failure.
5. Regulating the use of calcium carbide
In developed countries, the use of calcium carbide in food, especially for fruit ripening is strictly controlled. In fact, from the previous decade, its use was rejected to accelerate fruit ripening.
Unfortunately, such arrangements are not very effective in some developing and developing countries. Launching the Archives of Biological Sciences in 2018, calcium carbide is used freely in many countries around the world, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Nigeria and others even though it has been banned due to its harmful health effects.
Calcium carbide is a dangerous chemical in food. However, regulation of use related to safety is still not very effective in several countries. To avoid the impact, try to eat naturally ripe fruit, OK?