Using kaun in preparing your meal can cause renal impairment, experts warn Nigerians

Medical and nutrition experts have warned against the excessive consumption of potash or potassium carbonate, locally known as kaun, kanwa or akanwu among the Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo, respectively.
Potash is commonly used in many homes as an ingredient in the preparation of traditional Nigerian dishes. It is a form of sesquicarbonate or hydrated carbonate of sodium, which is a mixture of different substances with sodium constituting about 30 per cent and other minerals such as potassium, iron and zinc in varying proportions.
This ingredient is used as a condiment in dishes such as ewedu, ila asepo, nkwobi, abacha, oghwo, masa and the likes and it is also usually added to meat and legumes during cooking for quick softness. It is also said to increase the viscosity of soups such as okra, ogbono and ewedu. Also when added to some traditional soups, it can emulsify oil and water.
Aside from the fact that people use it to cook, it is also used for other things. For example, it is used for cleaning as it has great fungicide properties and can be used to prevent mildew. It is also useful in cleaning bathrooms and kitchen sinks and tiles. Potassium bicarbonate, which is also kaun, is used as a fire suppressing agent and can be found in some dry fire extinguishers.
Among some foreign cultures, it is used in embalming and mummification of corpses.
While it may seem to be an almost indispensable condiment in food, experts have pointed out its harmful effect on the human body and have called for a stop to its use.
According to a United States-based medical practitioner, Damilare Ajayi, “Many people use kaun in their meals to make it soft on time or to make it slimy in texture. But it is dangerous to the body. Kaun cannot be digested by the human body. So, when it is ingested, it just stays in the body and at times, it may cause frequent runny stomach. This can cause health problems such as renal failure.”
Ajayi noted that several studies had shown that kaun could be used to increase uterine contractility and this has been suspected to have the ability to induce abortions in the early stages of pregnancy, if used in high enough concentration.
A food scientist with the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi, Lagos State, Ms. Yemi Adeola, noted that since potash (kaun ) was a type of lake salt (sodium carbonate), it might still be tolerated if taken sparingly.
Adeola, however, warned that long-term consumption or excessive intake of the substance might result in headache, nausea or irritability in the individual.
The food scientist noted that the side effect of sodium bicarbonate could include swelling of the feet and ankle due to sodium overload, congestive heart failure and hypertension due to increased sodium ingestion.
”For children who consume a high calcium or dairy-rich diet, the use of potash (sodium bicarbonate) can cause milk-alkali syndrome, which can result in kidney stones, and kidney failure,” she said.