• Wednesday, December 06, 2023
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Highlighting the dangers of living under high tension cables



Years back, government demolished structures illegally constructed under NEPA {now Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN)} high tension power lines. Twenty-five years after the houses were pulled down, more houses have sprung up under these lines of death. SIAKA MOMOH, Business Day’s Industry Editor continues his report on this Nigerians’ resistance against good reasoning.

Many experts have confirmed that life is not safe under high tension power lines. One of them, R.I. Salawu had as far back as 1985 offered scientific explanations for what he considered a dance with death. Salawu who was then a Professor of Electrical Engineering, University of Lagos had said in an interview with his reporter: “Unlike cables used in homes or those buried which are covered with insulating materials (non conducting materials), the insulation for erected high tension transmission lines is the air around it. This air insulation can go down through a natural course and what follows is electrical charging of reinforcement in buildings and a consequent electric shock and loss of life,” Salawu revealed.

“Similarly, a continuous flow of water from lines to iron roofs or any iron object could result in electric shocks and ultimate death. How does this happen? Water conducts, so also is iron. Rain water is thus an electric current link between high tension lines and iron objects which if touched, shocks, and may result in death,” disclosed C.C. Okoro, a senior lecturer of the same department.

These dons further revealed that the humming from high voltage lines could cause breakdown of air particles (distortion) which in itself is environmental pollution. The don’s views are corroborated by a paper from the Lagos State’s Ministry of Information, Sports, Youth and Social Development, written Mukaila Sogbamu.

The paper says when electric current flows through a conductor, like metal wire, it creates an electric field with associated magnetic field around the wire. It explains: “It is like what we witness with a magnet – a magnet creates a field around itself within which it has effect. If a metal blade or nail is placed on a table, and a magnet bar brought closer to it, the point where the magnet causes the slightest movement of the nail is regarded as the outer limit of the field around the magnet. The greater the force of the magnet, the greater the field it creates around itself. So also it is with electricity.

It also went further to state that “With about 33,000 volts of electric current flowing through high tension wire, a large electric current – a large electric field is created in the vicinity. If any electric conductor, such as iron rod, metal or wet bamboo is brought within the electric field, it will result in current flow due to difference in potential.”

The paper went further that the aforementioned situation is analogous to the flow of water from a high point to a low point; that the high tension lines from which the electric field originates is like the peak of a mountain from which a body of water takes its source.

It states that as the water flows from the lowest level, i.e. the ground, so does current flows to the ground with a zero potential. In addition, the electric current flows through any electric conductor placed in its path in which the water passes, may wet any waterproof material placed in its path while moving from top to bottom. It concludes by saying that this is where lies the basic danger of erecting an object or moving around underneath high tension electric wires.

The Lagos State Government paper also cites some dons who discussed the danger of those who live under high tension lines are exposed to. Their views corroborate the views of respondents this writer cited earlier. In the meantime, Bola Awobamise, an electrical engineer and then lecturer at the University of Lagos , had said that any human being underneath a high tension wire acts as a path of current and is susceptible to being electrocuted.

He added that animals have been known to have died as a result and that the problem is more pronounced in the wet season, as lightening during the rains helps in expanding the electric field. In his words “Immediate death is guaranteed if a high tension wire is damaged and falls on a house. This will result in electrocution by direct contact and can cause fire.” The Port Harcourt recent incidence corroborates this.

Citing S. Ogunbunmi, a physics teacher, “Since most of our houses are not insulated; there is the danger of electrocution by induction.” By this, it means that a poorly constructed building can become a high equipotential surface, thus leading to electrocution with a whole building thus electrified. Also, an ordinary touch of plug can cause electrocution. Aside this, all metallic cloth line placed under high tension wire becomes lethal as it is electrified and can cause death if touched.”

Corona discharge The paper explains corona discharge as a serious activity going on around high tension. It also has to do with the ionization of air molecules found in the spaces between two or more wires. It likens this to what goes on when we boil water.

It states that when water is cold, it feels good to the skin just like air. But when it is boiled at high temperature, the water molecules having acquired heal characteristics, escape as vapour. It concludes that the action of electric field and associated magnetic field around high tension wires on the air trapped in spaces between the wires is similar to that of heat on water. In the same vein, the ionized air molecules, like water vapour can adversely affect the skin, eyes or even lead to fire outbreak.

Biological disorders For Bode Ogunleye, in the Department of Radiation Biology and Radiotherapy, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, the linkage between magnetic and electric fields around high tension wires vis-a-vis biological changes “is still hazy.”

Ogunleye stated that experiments carried out in Europe shows that there are differences in cardiac rhythm (pulses generated by heart beat) between subjects exposed to the electric field as opposed to those not exposed to it.

Aside this, the Lagos State document goes on to cite a published report of pilot studies on the effect of exposure to high tension wire in the Soviet Union. The report lists a number of neurological and cardiovascular disorders. It states that reduced sperm count in the workers who regularly serviced the line that fewer children were born to high tension wire workers compared to other people.

Furthermore, the difference is found to increase with the number of years of exposure. In recent study, a relationship was found between overhead transmission line and childhood cancer. Another study indicates a higher incidence of suicide in homes around high tension line relative to others.

The paper argues it is a great disservice for any government officials to continue to give approval for the construction of houses under overhead transmission lines, and that no activities, agriculture or commercial, should be allowed under these lines.