The Libyan Attorney General’s Office announced that samples analyzed by the German Expertise House confirmed the use of the banned potassium bromate in 27 factories and bakeries inside Libya. This sparked widespread outrage on social media, and among activists.
This has also caused a state of panic among Libyans, given that the substance is considered to be carcinogenic. As it contains a high percentage of sodium and potassium and several health risks.
Potassium bromate, an extremely strong oxidizing chemical, was used as a dough enhancer. As well as sterilizing water and cosmetics, but after some of its health complications were discovered, its use has dwindled.
Dozens of countries prohibited its use, given its negative health impacts. In August 2021, Potassium bromate was banned from being imported and used in Libya.
However, in August, laboratories belonging to the Libyan Ministry of Education discovered that many bakeries still continue to use the chemical in making bread, and in flour supplies.
The Attorney General’s Office said on Monday that it had confirmed that 232 cases were recorded. It said that it had taken measures to see if it was used as an ingredient in some foods.
The Office said in a statement that the Public Prosecution’s first measures were conducting investigations into the incident. It added that it had submitted 600 samples of wheat, flour, and other materials used in making bread and pastries. As well as noting 411 people were charged, for not complying with health requirements.
It also requested qualitative and quantitative analysis of the samples to determine the addition of potassium bromate, which is included in the Harmonized System of Commodity Classification.
The World Health Organization has estimated that 1 out of every 6 deaths in the world is due to Cancer.
The most common types are breast, lung, colorectal, and prostate.
Early detection techniques are not available in Libya, as there are only six specialised centers in the country. Most of which are not suitable for treatment, due to the lack of medicines and equipment. This results in most Libyans travelling to receive treatment in neighbouring countries, especially in Jordan and Egypt.
According to statements by Libyan monitoring authorities and health officials in neighbouring countries, Libya’s debts for medical treatment abroad are estimated at 1.5 billion dinars. The government is notoriously slow in paying the rising hospital debts, which has resulted in Libyan patients being turned away.
The healthcare sector in Libya has deteriorated, especially after the fall of the regime of the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.
Recently, the death of nine cancer-stricken children at the Children’s Hospital in Benghazi revealed the extent of the country’s inability to sufficiently provide treatment.
The Libyan Ministry of Health has blamed the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) for the death of the children. This is after the CBL refused to open the necessary documentary credits to send them to receive treatment abroad.
There are no accurate cancer statistics in Libya, but the latest official statistics confirmed that 6,077 Libyans are diagnosed with oncological diseases annually. An estimated 12% have colon and lung cancer, 11% have breast cancer, and 6.4% have bladder cancer.
Doctors estimate that about 25% of cancer patients are children. Despite the government’s allocation of 13 billion dinars for the health sector in 2021 and 2022. Cancer treatment centers in Libya continue to suffer from a severe shortage of doctors, equipment, and medicines.