Cabinet Notes: The Director of Applied Sciences was invited by the Minister of Agriculture to address the need to strengthen the laboratories that do testing of chemical substances, food and other products–either grown domestically or imported–in order to ensure a higher level of safety and the absence of harmful chemicals from the food chain.
The resource challenge which the laboratories face has been somewhat overcome by the number of funded projects which have been negotiated with international and regional agencies that continue to provide funding. International Conventions to which Antigua and Barbuda is a party have yielded support for specific examinations of certain chemicals which require public engagement and an articulated science policy. For example, as a result of the efforts of the Government, US$120,000 have been raised for the Central Lab for Mercury Management.
Mercury is a very harmful substance whose limitation is set at one part per one million in cosmetics, food and other applications for human use and consumption. Bleaching creams, widely used to lighten skin, contains 17,000 parts per million; the scientist proposed banning their use in order to save lives. Tumors and cancers can be generated by their use and they interfere with the human genetic code, causing children born of the adult users to inherit defects.
The scientist pointed out that 33% of their work is revenue-earning carried out in favour of hotels. The labs also provide services to the Police, the pharmaceutical industry, the Cannabis Industry, and the hospitals.
The Antiguan labs could provide services to OECS neighbours, help determine bio-safety levels, and provide farmers with assurances in the use of pesticides; untrained farmers apply the substances in ways and in quantities that are harmful, the Director found. The Cabinet gave its full commitment to lending support, including fixing the laboratory at Dunbars so that work can be carried-on there.
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