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How air pollution is silently choking life out of Nigerians in major cities

... Ranked 3rd among countries with world deadliest household air

Air sustains life, but in big Nigeria cities, Kano, Port Harcourt, Onitsha and Lagos, a haze of silent death seems to be hanging. From indoors to outdoors, air is becoming more and more deadly than ever before.

According to just released State of Global Air Report 2019 published by the Health Effects Institute (HEI) the air people breathe in Nigeria is not only bad but kills than the air in any other country in Africa and 6th in the world, as it has continued to exceeds the World Health Organization (WHO) Air Quality Guideline and interim targets for 1990, 2010, and the latest 2017.

The report revealed that Nigeria recorded 114,000 deaths attributable to air pollution in 2017 (the latest available data) along other 10 countries in the world China 1.2 million, India 1.2 million, Pakistan 128,000, Indonesia 124,000, Bangladesh 123,000, the United States 108,000, Russia 99,000, Brazil 66,000, and the Philippines 64,000.

Despite these death figures most Nigeria states noticeable lack accessible air quality monitoring data, making it difficult to understand the severity of the problem and benchmark trends that the report describes as “the biggest environmental threat of our times”

However, a check on Air Visual network, a project of air pollution mitigation firm IQAir, which publishes real-time data from cities around the world, showed only Port Harcourt, Lagos, Kano, and Amassoma in Bayelsa data  featured on its Air Quality Index (use to communicate to the public how polluted the air currently is or how polluted it is forecast to become).

As at 19th September 2019, by 7.15pm the index showed, Lagos residents ranked as the highest population likely to be exposed to hazardous air at 70 AQI followed by Port Harcourt which came second at 74 AQI, Amassoma 57 and Kano 40 respectively.

Last year, WHO, ranked air pollution as the fourth among global risk factors for mortality, and leading environmental risk factor, far surpassing other environmental risks that have often been the focus of public health measures in the past, such as unsafe water and lack of sanitation.”

In 2017, 3.6 billion people (47percent of the global population) were exposed to household air pollution from the use of solid fuels for cooking, and Nigeria not only leads Africa but ranked 3rd in the world on the Numbers of people and percentage exposed.

The study further revealed that three of the major causes of air pollution in Nigeria remained burning of fossil fuels, exhaust from industries and vehicle, generator fumes.

As typical of Nigeria, epileptic electricity supply means most Nigeria households rely heavily on generating power themselves resulting in generator fumes which comprise a “lethal cocktail of poisonous and environmentally unfriendly gases, including carbon monoxide and other noxious products. Carbon monoxide could be a serious health hazard. Indoors or in close proximity, the gas quickly infiltrates living spaces and incapacitates occupants,” the report said.

Also the National Bureau of Statistics put Nigeria’s vehicle population at 11.46 million with commercial vehicles accounting for the largest share. Commercial vehicles accounts for 53.8%, private 44.5percent, Government 1.6percent and the remaining 0.1percent goes to diplomatic vehicles.

Rita Akpbulor a medical practitioner explained that exposure to poor quality Air can bring about respiratory diseases emphysema, bronchitis, lung damage, and asthma among others.

“You get patients coming in complaining of chest pain, dry throat, nausea, aggravated respiratory diseases among other respiratory problems, it often turns out that they have been exposed to the effects of poor air quality.”

In 2012 WHO revealed In Lagos alone an estimated seven million people died from diseases related to indoor and outdoor air pollution.

The UN health body in a similarly report, Onitsha, Kaduna, Aba and Umuahia were among four of the 20 African cities with the worst air quality in the world.

WHO measured air quality by examining the annual mean concentration of particulate matter in nearly 3,000 cities across the world with populations of at least 100,000.

Onitsha’s average annual PM10 was 594 – nearly 30 times greater than the WHO-recommended annual level of 20.

Kaduna, Aba, and Umuahia cities were ranked among the top 20 worst cities measured by PM10, ranking 8th, 9th, and 19th, respectively.

“Part of the problem is that environmental regulations and enforcement are lax; people are more exposed to air pollution but less able to protect themselves from exposure either in the open, in the workplace or at home,” Ako Amadi, an environmentalist said

“We need to pay attention to the different types of air pollution and their health consequences, many people living in urban informal settlements (or slums) are exposed to high levels of indoor and outdoor air pollution.”

But for Onome Ojakovor, a fish seller in Boundary Ajegunle finding her daily bread is more important to her.

“This is all I know how to do and how I know can be done telling me about the risk will not change anything.”

David Ibemere

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