- Experts counsel Nigerians on how to avoid death from fumes from generating sets
Again, health experts have warned against death by generator fumes. They have urged Nigerians to desist from leaving running generators in their apartments, explaining how the sets kill without notice.
The warning came following the sad tales of entire families getting wiped out after inhaling poisonous gases emanating from power generators running inside their homes.
In June last year, for instance, residents of Rumuosi community in Rivers State woke up to a bizarre sight. They were confronted by decomposing bodies believed to be those of a couple and their four children. They all lay prostrate inside their apartment. None of the people in the area could tell how long the victims had been dead.
But investigations revealed that the victims were members of one family. They got wiped out after inhaling fumes from a generator that they left inside their apartment running all night to supply electricity while they slept.
On the night of the tragedy, there was power outage in the area, and the family opted for the generator that had apparently served them long before the sad incident. Then, somewhere along the line, something went awry. The generator turned a bad servant and a harbinger of death.
Over the past few years, death via the inhalation of generator fumes has been commonplace. It has silently but brutally claimed a lot of lives. Every now and then, some Nigerians simply forget the dominant power of this mortal enemy to kill. With their own hands, they invite the killer into their homes and willingly give it free rein. And when the time comes, it strikes, leaving death and anguish in its trail.
Unfortunately, the mortal power of generator fumes is one telling reality only a few have come to know. Just when some people seemed to have almost concluded that generator fumes were no more a phenomenon – believing that their instinct has been whittled down by the power of awareness – the poisonous gases struck again, this time with renewed gusto. It nearly wiped out an entire family of seven.
This latest tragedy happened on Tuesday last week in Egor Local Government Area of Edo State. Residents of Akpata Street in the area, where the victims lived, were stricken with fear as they rallied to retrieve the bodies of five children and their mother from their home. They were all victims of generator fumes that they inhaled while asleep. The patriarch of the family, identified as Tochukwu Okwueze, was rescued unconscious and rushed to a hospital, where he is believed to be receiving medical care.
Members of the family were believed to have put on their power generator and left it in the kitchen overnight from where it kept roaring as it served the household. They had apparently believed that they were far away from the reach of the fumes from the machine. But when they were all sleep, the dangerous gases drifted to their bedrooms. They inhaled the fumes and died, leaving the head of the family battling for life.
Given the alarming rate at which people are dying while sleeping in an apartment where there is a discharge of fumes, Daily Sun spoke to some health experts on the dangers of the gases released by generators. The comments of a medical biologist and research scientist, Mr. Chris Ewuru, on the dangers of generator fumes were as insightful as they were illuminating.
“The dominant fume that emanates from generators in use is called carbon monoxide,” he began. “This is produced following the combustion of air and fuel. It is by far heavier than the ordinary carbon dioxide everybody knows.
“If the air traffic in a confinement is minimal, this carbon monoxide easily displaces both the normal carbon dioxide and the available oxygen. This is simply because carbon monoxide is heavier than the two.
“When this happens, every individual sleeping in that apartment will most likely die. This is because the carbon monoxide will displace the oxygen within the apartment and thus deny them of oxygenated blood. Subsequently, the affected persons are denied energy.
“It must be recalled that the food we eat gives us energy. We need energy for the body to carry out its functions. We are alive as long as the body is not deprived of the energy it needs to perform its functions.
“When carbon monoxide denies a human being oxygen, the body metabolism ceases. Once this happens, the individual dies.”
Ewuru added that the poisonous fumes cause headache, dizziness, general body weakness, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion: “At night, while asleep, when the generator fumes infiltrate a poorly-ventilated house, the gas displaces oxygen and causes loss of consciousness, arrhythmia and seizures. Without intervention, death comes gradually.
“When inhaled in a large dose in a conscious state, it could cause long-time illness and general weakness of the lungs, and heart disease. It is the reason it is called noxious gas.”
Ewuru, who works with the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), Lagos, warned that incidents of people dying from generator fumes would continue to recur unless people learn to place their generators in safe places away from their living areas.
Listen to him: “Every generator must be placed in a place from where its fumes cannot reach or be inhaled by anyone. The place must never be a confinement.
“Placement of generators must be made in an open place where the carbon monoxide can easily be diffused. It must not be in a place where the fumes are trapped.
“Carbon monoxide is capable of choking people and denying them air. As a result of the paucity of air, the individual is denied oxygen, then death follows.
“It must also be said that the same carbon monoxide is released during cigarette smoking, same for other gases. That is why it is often warned that cigarette smoking is dangerous to health.”
In the same manner, a medical practitioner, Dr. Douglas Nkemdilim, emphasised that inhalation of carbon monoxide is extremely dangerous to health: “There are limited gases
the human lungs can tolerate. One of them is carbon monoxide. It depletes the oxygen content within an environment. Its presence in the human lungs is extremely dangerous. It compels the lungs to fail and eventually pack up.”
Nkemdilim, who works with Anglican Archdiocesan Hospital, Nnewi, gave tips for saving victims of carbon monoxide inhalation.
He said: “The moment the incident happens and the victim is still
alive, the very first thing to do is to evacuate the individual to a place where he can breathe in oxygen.
“If he is not breathing, one should endeavour to supply him oxygen through the mouth. Just get a handkerchief, place it over his nose and breathe into his nose. By so doing, oxygen is forced into his lungs through the nose. When he gets to the hospital, he will be given oxygen from a cylinder to save his life.”
He noted that if the victim failed to survive, the very first sign that he suffered oxygen loss would be that the lips would be bluish in colour.
Both professionals further counselled that people should always keep their generators in safe places and desist from bringing them into their homes while in use.
“People keep their generators, especially the ones popularly called ‘I better pass my neighbour,’ inside their homes because they are afraid they might be stolen,” Nkemdilim said. “But it is strongly advised
that they should either chain them somewhere outside the house or construct a box where they can lock them.”
Similarly, Ewuru urged Nigerians to save themselves and their families from calamity by constructing a cage where they can place their power sets.
Ewuru gave tips on the right time to bring generators inside the living room if the owner must do so.
“A generator can be brought inside an apartment about 20 to 25 minutes after it has been turned off, especially during the hot season, when the temperature is high.
“But when the temperature is low, that is, during the cold or harmattan season, it is safe for one to bring in his generator inside the home 15 minutes after it has been turned off.
“When a generator is switched off, it no longer emits fumes. But the ones earlier generated are still being exhibited. That is why caution should be the word.
“At the same time, people should try to report to environmental authorities or the police anytime anyone places a generating set anywhere near their homes. It is extremely unsafe to allow generator fumes to waft into the home to be inhaled.
“As a matter of fact, there should be a public outcry against people endangering the lives of their neighbours with their generators. The consequences of this are enormous. Therefore, people must learn to speak out when their lives are endangered,” he said.