Reports indicate that Nigeria flares more natural gas during oil extraction than most countries. During this flaring, poisonous chemicals like sulfur dioxide, benzene, hydrogen sulfide, toluene, xylene and nitrogen dioxide are released into the atmosphere, causing air pollution. The destruction of illegal refineries in the Niger Delta, fumes from generators and the high vehicular emission of toxic gases further compounds this issue in some of our major cities.
The pollutants generated by these factors have been identified in the prevalence of diseases such as lung cancer, upper respiratory diseases, infertility, and birth defects, among others.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 92 per cent of the world’s population currently lives in areas where pollution exceeds safety guidelines and that air pollution causes about one in three deaths from stroke, chronic respiratory disease and lung cancer as well as one in four deaths from heart attack. Long-term exposure to the pollutants has been linked to upper respiratory diseases, lung cancer and skin diseases amongst others.
Lagos the commercial centre of Nigeria is battling with air pollution emanating from vehicle fumes, generators, refuse dumps and industrial emissions. Residents of Lagos experienced unprecedented choking smog in 2005 and in November 2013 had to rush some secondary students to hospitals as a result of inhalation of poisonous fumes from an industrial plant close to a school. The city is presently battling with deadly toxic fumes from a burning refuse dump at Olusesan located in Ojota area of the state.
The pollutants generated by some of these activities include and are not limited to carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, asbestos, nitrogen oxide and un-burnt hydrocarbons. Lagos State in 2007 initiated the Lagos Air Monitoring Study to monitor the pollution level and put programmes in place to reduce such. The state has been planting trees as part of its effort to increase the oxygen content of the air in the city. It is also planning to relocate some of the dumps sites to non-residential areas.
Air pollution is likely to increase in Lagos by the time the proposed petroleum refinery starts production unless policies and practices are changed. Dangerous and carcinogenic compounds like benzapyrene and dioxins are also part of the toxic substances released into the environment when petroleum products are being processed.
Air pollution is a silent killer, which can also lead to respiratory failure. It has also been linked to blood diseases, like anemia and leukemia. Nickel, one the substances released into the air during the production of asphalts, is another dangerous substance that can get into the other organs of the body even through the skin. It irritates the sinuses and makes the lungs not to function well, which may cause bronchitis or lead to other life threatening diseases with chronic exposure.
In a move to tackle the black soot air pollution in Port Harcourt and its environ, the Federal Ministry of Health has declared it as an “Emergency Situation.” A United Nation delegation recently visited the state in order to investigate and proffer a long-term solution to the soot issue but experts say they can only work within the existing policies and laws governing environmental issues in the country.
According to report published in the journal of the American Medical Association, breathing polluted air can worsen existing respiratory conditions. The study, co-authored by Dr. Joel Schwartz, suggests that taking the B vitamins may help reduce the devastating effect of air pollution.
Studies have also shown that including fruits and vegetables in our daily diet will keep our lungs healthy and lower the risks of other life-threatening diseases. .
Proper diet of raw, colourful, vegetables and fruits in season are very important. These will boost our immunity, nourish our body, alkalinise our cells and remove toxins from our system.
According to Dr. George Pamplona-Roger, a doctor of medicine and a digestive surgeon, certain vegetables and fruits rich in Beta-carotene protect one against lung cancer. Fruits that have phyto-chemicals, vitamins and minerals neutralise toxins in the body.
Vitamin C is a natural antidote to tar and it is found in fruits like Kiwi, Citrus fruits, Cauliflower, Pineapple, Strawberries, Cantaloupe, Pawpaw, chili, Red and Green bell pepper among others. Onions and garlic have anti-biotic and anti-asthmatic properties, which helps the respiratory system work well. Figs and Dates also have soothing affects on the bronchial passage.
Plant based food rich in B vitamins helps in healing damaged lungs. Green, Lima, Pinto, navy and black beans, Oats, Lentils, Barley, Spinach, Green peas, Walnut, Tofu, whey powder, Yeast extract, Sun flower seeds, Banana, Almond and Rice milk are all rich in B vitamins.
Exercise also plays a very important role as it helps circulate oxygen better in our body and facilitates the speedy evacuation of carbon dioxide and other fumes from the lungs.
Getting air purifiers into our cars, houses and offices is another important action to take, which will help lower our exposure to the toxic substances present in a highly polluted environment. It will reduce the level of indoor air pollution around us.