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Monday, April 27, 2020

COVID-19 bonfires: Like Bayelsans, like Lagosians - ITREALMS

Not until recently the environmental hazards being faced by those at the Niger Delta region of this country, especially Bayelsa and Rivers States dawned on some of Lagosians as the lockdown over the ChineseVirus-19 also known as Coronavirus or COVID-19 continues its ravage.

ITREALMS gathered this was heightened by the reported unsigned letter from alleged “1m Boys” to Lagosians, which stated inter alia:

“Alert! Alert!! Alert!!!“We the undefeated“ONE MILLION BOYS“Are coming to visit your area very soon.“ So, make everybody prepare.“If you don’t comply, we will cut your hands”

Penultimate Easter Monday night was the same day the ‘eyes’ of some Lagosians became clear as they used to say in a local parlance on and over the issues of degradation when it comes to environmental hazards associated with the flames of any kind especially that of petroleum related like tyres, coupled with lack of adequate security.

Throughout the night was that of bonfires with used tyres. Initially some residents may not have cared much but on inquiry, it was learnt that some unknown group of criminals were said to have visited the neighborhoods of Ladipo at Shogunle, Mafoluku-Oshodi and even Ijesha-Tedo. But the effect did not manifest until the following morning when people woke up to behold black dust known as ‘soot’ where there is any atom of white changing colour.

Even after cleaning of such surfaces, in the next hour or two the black dust remains and by evening, the dust has not subsided because the debris are on the floor and once movement is expressed on the surface on the main road, the dust spreads.

Although by afternoon, some good Samaritans who understood the implications went out to sprinkle water to calm the dust, once Ikeja Electric restored public power supply and taps started running. As at the morning of the first day, a lot of residents were reported to have coughed out blood or clouts as first spittles.

As opposed to high-temperature incinerators, bonfires also tend to produce more carbon monoxide, which is harmful when breathed in and can form toxic ozone. As Milbourn puts it: "It almost doesn't matter what you burn but, instead, how you burn it."

“When you breathe in smoke, the particles could get deep into your respiratory system. You've likely experienced the results — stinging eyes, runny nose and coughing. ... But for those with underlying respiratory illnesses, inhaling smoke is dangerous,” a medical expert warned.

Health experts at Cleveland Clinics have posited that when anyone breathes in smoke, the particles could get deep into the respiratory system, thereby resulting in likely experiences such as stinging eyes, runny nose and coughing. ... But for those with underlying respiratory illnesses, inhaling smoke is dangerous, mostly in a large scale within any given society hence it becomes environmental hazard.

What is environmental hazard?

An environmental hazard, as elucidated by experts at Wikipedia and Omics on Environmental Hazards and Human Health; is a substance, a state or an event which has the potential to threaten the surrounding natural environment and or adversely affect people's health, including but not limited natural disasters such as storms and earthquakes, electromagnetic fields, floods, light pollution, noise pollution, vibration, x-rays etc. Noting that radioactivity is often associated with an exposure dependent risk of some cancers notably leukemia.

The hazards associated thereof have been further categorized into core four classes, namely physical, chemical, biological, and cultural. Physical hazards are physical processes that occur naturally in the environment, according to experts at study.com.

They also postulated that chemical hazards, for instance, are hazardous substances that could cause harm. While the Biological hazards include viruses, bacteria, insects, animals, to name a few, that could cause adverse health impacts, whereas the cultural hazards have been defined by Chegg’s experts as certain behaviors or practices that expose people to various types of health hazards, and not limited to over-eating, excessive smoking or consumption of alcohol, use of drugs that are addictive, avoidance of exercise, and choice of hazardous occupations.


What is a substance?

A chemical substance is a form of matter having constant chemical composition and characteristic properties. Some references add that chemical substance cannot be separated into its constituent elements by physical separation methods, i.e., without breaking chemical bonds. This, Chemistry dictionary, defined further as the “real physical matter of which a person or thing consists and which has a tangible, solid presence.”


What are tyres made of and hazards?

The materials of modern pneumatic tyres are synthetic rubber, natural rubber, fabric and wire, along with carbon black and other chemical compounds. They consist of a tread and a body. The tread provides traction while the body provides containment for a quantity of compressed air, according to experts.

They also classified the three main effects of tyre burning on the environment as air, water, and soil pollution. The airborne pollution caused from the tyre burning kilns is significant, consequently, the black fumes also known as ‘soot’ contain heavy metals and other harmful pollutants that linger in the air and could lead from acute to chronic health hazards.

Often in every country that may have endorsed the United Nations Environmental Protection policies, its absolutely illegal to burn vehicular tyres among others, as stated recently by the Deputy Director at Environmental Protection Agency Ghana, which is the department of Ghana Petroleum, Mr Kojo Agbenor-Efunam.

Lagosians bemoan bonfires, fears more death:

Lagosians wake up after the second Presidential address on the ravaging ChineseVirus-19 to see most of their streets with bonfires flames still gushing in Ojodu, Oshodi, Shogunle, Isolo and some parts of Ogba, all in Lagos, showed that the bonfires were set to wade off hoodlums, particularly the 1m Boys.

On the last days of the first phase of the 14-day lockdown as directed by the President, General Muhammadu Buhari, retired, hoodlums were reported attacking residents in Agege and environ, asking for food. Even as the Lagos State governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu had disclosed that over 100 of such hoodlums including cultists identified as Awawa Boys were arrested and would be prosecuted according to the law.

Following the bonfires across the state, most residents were faced with increase in cough and clout spits as well as effects on their throats, just as health experts said that for those with underlying respiratory illnesses, inhaling smoke is dangerous.

Leave Lagos, says Odumosu:

In response to lamentations of Lagosians, the State Police Commissioner, Hakeem Odumosu warned armed robbers and cultists to leave the state or face the consequences of crime.

Odumosu who spoke through Lagos Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Bala Elkana, said that two suspected armed robbers and 98 suspected cultists were arrested already in different parts of the state.

Equally, Elkanah said that the Command warned parents to advise their children to stay at home as the police were ready to deal with hoodlums of any kind in the state, warning that hoodlums should either leave the state or repent from their evil ways.

Like Bayelsans, Like Lagosians bonfire:

Above all, the outcome of every bonfire is what the Nigeria’s Niger Delta region has experienced for years, particularly the Bayelsans, whenever there are flames from petroleum products or better still crude oil processing. A section of America environmentalists under the aegis of the Centre for American Progress (CAP), posited that particle pollution, commonly referred to as “soot,” is one of the deadliest forms of air pollution, thus is essential for every national Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) adopts the strictest rules possible to protect citizens from the dangers of breathing these particles.

Soot defined:

CAP which has leading policy experts, analysts, and senior fellows, including Mr. Olugbenga Ajilore, defined soot as the common term for a type of particle pollution called PM 2.5—particulate matter that is 2.5 micrometers in diameter or smaller. They stressed that such fine particles, are even smaller than dust and mold particles, or approximately 1/30 of the size of a human hair. This encompassed a variety of pollutants, including chemicals, acids, metals, soils, and dust, which are suspended in the air after emission. Soot can come in solid, liquid, or gaseous (“aerosols”) states.

In addition, CAP team said soot is a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, particularly coal, thus is emitted by a variety of sources, including burning coal for electricity or industrial fuel, manufacturing, oil refining, and motor vehicles.

Soot as a public health concern:

Experts at CAP maintained that soot poses tremendous harms to public health, particularly because of its size, even as particulate matter is so small that it could easily enter human lungs and bloodstream, potentially causing damage in a number of ways. While the Environmental Protection Agency of United State described the process of soot harming the human body as “Microscopic particles can penetrate deep into the lungs and have been linked to a wide range of serious health effects, including premature death, heart attacks, and strokes, as well as acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children.”

Does Nigeria have EPA?

Yes, Nigeria do have. Historically, the Federal Government in1988 established the Federal Environmental Protection Agency (FEPA) (now Federal Ministry of Environment with effect from September,1999) to protect, restore and preserve the nation’s ecosystem. FEPA has a wide range of functions to protect the environment, and primarily responsible for environmental licensing, enforcement of environmental law, environmental planning, education and guidance.

In Lagos, there is Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA), unfortunately there was no education and or guidance over the implication or health hazards of Lagosians as may be associated to bonfires emitting from tyres.

Summary:

From all indications, Nigeria may have FEPA and Lagos’s LASEPA, but its obvious the country has no policy guidelines on soot and its associated environmental hazards.

One had expected that at least, LASEPA should have issued a press statement in order to educate and enlighten Lagosians as they tend to live out the Bayelsan forced style of life due to the increase in bonfires, especially with used tyres.

As at the time of filing this story, Vulcanisers who often display used tyres as symbol of location, have developed plan to always pack their displayed tyres inside for safe keeping, because it has since the evolution of ChineseVirus-19 also known as Coronavirus or COVID-19 turned a scarce commodity.

Although some elites are engaging the residents turned over-night vigilante on the dangers inherent in any bonfires let alone with tyres.

For the state government its not enough to merely caution and condemn over the radio the bonfires, there should be a deliberate attempts to educate the populace, mostly Lagosians, especially on the health implications, namely premature death, heart attacks, and strokes, leukemia, besides acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children.

Though for Bayelsans, it may have come from economic crude oil, but for Lagosians, it’s out of security necessity. Therefore, its time to do all things possible to ensure that soot is reduced drastically if not eradicated, whilst it remains an avoidable health hazard that must be collectively battled. Not forgetting that the latest bonfires were elucidated by letters from robbery gang known as ‘1m Boys’ who have since abandoned night as the period of attacks to even unleash their attack and robberies on Lagosians during the day-time.

All hands must be on deck as number of emergency vigilante continues to rise. Lagosians must devoid of anything to escalate the COVID-19 related ailment by staying safe and practicing all health expert directives including putting on facemask when stepping out of homes.


*Contributed by Remmy Nweke

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