Food, Health And Safety: Sulphur Dioxide: A Harmful Gas

Sulphur dioxide is a colorless gas with a pungent odor, it is a liquid when under pressure, it dissolves in water very easily and cannot catch fire. Sulphur dioxide in the air results primarily from activities associated with the burning of fossil fuels like charcoal, wood and oil.

In Ghana, Smoking of fish, meat and the use of wood for cooking generates large amounts of sulphur dioxide. Women are mostly at risk in our part of the world, as the use of wood stoves are still rampant in our sub-urban and rural settings for cooking. Open burning in Ghana is another source of sulphur dioxide as well as automobile exhaust fumes.

Sulphur dioxide is also preservative. It has been used in the preservation of fish, meat and other food products in the form of smoke for ages. The process of preserving food with sulphur dioxide is intended to provide a longer shelf life, kill harmful bacteria that might grow on vegetation and foods, and help food products maintain a certain visual appearance; however, it's also considered one of the top six air pollutants.

Sulphur dioxide is produced industrially as a bleach alternative, a reducing agent, and for sulphites (preservation). As it has no role in humans or mammalian biology, when introduced into the human system, it inhibits specific nerve signals, restricts lung performance, and is a direct allergen - over 65% of asthmatic children are sensitive to SO2 (World Health Organization, 1999), and negatively affects over 70% of children with behavioral problems.

Eating more raw and living foods, getting rid of processed foods in the diet, as well as buying dried nuts and snack fruits from companies known for being preservative-free (or making your own in a dehydrator) are the best ways to nourish your body. Asthmatics, people with sensitivities and allergies, as well as people on more natural diets will feel and have more natural capacity for healing and sustaining energy by paying attention to food labels and researching the companies supplying healthier snack alternatives like dried fruit, nuts and seeds, fruit juices, and gluten-free products.

Sulphur dioxide is a pollutant, avoid exposure to smoke as much as possible to minimize the effect of sulphur dioxide on the body. We should also encourage the use of smoke-free alternatives to wood cooking stoves. Stay safe!

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About author

Hakim Tabas

Hakim Tabas is Health, Safety and Environmental Practitioner with a Post-Graduate Diploma in Occupational safety, Health and Environmental Management from GIMPA, Ghana. He thinks of Health and Safety as a calling and is very dedicated to the practice. He is affectionately known by colleagues and friends as Don Tono.


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