Osun warns public against toxic ‘ponmo’ preserved with formalin

Tessy Igomu

The Osun State Government has warned residents to be careful when purchasing cow hide, known popularly as ponmo.

The government said most of the ponmo currently being sold in the state contains dangerous chemicals that could harm human beings.

The Osun State Commissioner for Agriculture and Food Security, Adedayo Adewole, gave the warning in a statement made available by the ministry’s Information Officer, Segilola Babalola, during a stakeholders’ meeting with Ponmo Dealers’ Association organised by the Department of Veterinary Services, Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security in Osogbo.

The commissioner appealed to the association to join forces with the government to prevent the importation of toxic cow hide into the state, especially those preserved with formalin.

Formalin is a 37 percent aqueous (water) solution of formaldehyde, a pungent gas that is used as an antiseptic, disinfectant, etc.

Adewole noted that there are cow skin hide being sold in some markets that are of questionable sources and obviously unfit for human consumption.

“Some of them became spoilt during processing and are not meant to be consumed, yet some unscrupulous elements smuggled them into some markets in the state.

“We believe there are some intruders into the business that are fond of importing these bad ponmo, and they have to be stopped”, he said.

The Director of Veterinary Services, Dr. Abosede Olatokun, assured that the state government would carefully monitor the activities of cow hide dealers in the state through the Ponmo Dealers’ Association, noting that it would no longer deal with individuals.

She implored members of the association to collaborate with the government in order to keep the state safe from harmful cow hide.

Based on reports, several states, especially Lagos have had a running battle with dealers of poisonous ponmo.

In 2019, three persons connected with the sale of toxic cow skin were arrested in the Ojo and Iba areas of the state and charged to court after large quantities of the poisonous hide were confiscated from them.

Based on findings, the dealers usually converged for the illicit business in the early hours, between 4am and 6am, to sell to retailers.

Before now, health officers in Sapele, Delta State, apprehended some ponmo sellers for injecting chemicals used in the embalmment of corpses into the cowhide to make them look attractive to buyers.

The traders, who admitted to the illicit act, said they usually soak the cow skin in water to achieve the bloated, fleshy appearance after injecting the substance into the hides

Although the particular type of embalming fluid used was not disclosed, toxicologists warned that ingesting any substance used for embalming corpses, especially the most common among them, formaline, has grave consequences.

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, formalin can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, even at low levels for short periods.

It noted that longer exposure or higher doses can cause coughing or choking, and that severe exposure can cause death from throat swelling or from chemical burns to the lungs.

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