By Dr. Inenyo Esinte
I woke up this 19th day of December 2021 and was greeted good morning by the sight and smell of hydrocarbon and black soot Air pollution like several other days in the recent past in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, Southern Nigeria.
Every Resident who is observant of the Air quality in Yenagoa metropolis and environs can affirm and attest to my observation above.
Hydrocarbon and black soot Air pollution occur as a result of incomplete combustion, burning and refining of Crude Oil which releases very fine, minute incompletely burnt toxic hydrocarbon particles known as black soot into the air, causing major air pollution and other attendant health, social, environment and economic effects.
The health, environmental and social effects of hydrocarbon and black soot air pollution are myriad and shall be stated in this write up accordingly.
We are all aware and have knowledge of the major and commonest sources of hydrocarbon Air pollution in our environment, particularly the Niger Delta region, is Oil and Gas exploratory activities, especially artisan petroleum refining activities synonymously dubbed crude oil bunker, Kpo fire refining activities.
While artisan petroleum refining play critical role in bridging the gap in energy demand, the health, environmental and social consequences of artisan petroleum refining must be taken seriously and seen as a topmost priority for the safety of humans and the environment.
The health, environmental, economic and social effects of hydrocarbon and black soot air pollution included the following;
Short term health effects;
- Respiratory tract irritation
- Allergies(Cough, Catarrh, tearing)
- Irritation of the Eyes
- Irritation of the Skin
- Exacerbation of Asthma amongst others.
Long term health effects;
- Lung cancer
- Chronic Bronchitis
- Chronic Obstructive Airway Disease (COPD)
- And several other chronic lung diseases.
Hydrocarbon and black soot air pollution-related illnesses can assume an epidemic proportion and thus overwhelmed our health facilities and health manpower resulting in the sudden collapse of our health sector.
Environmental effects included;
- Air pollution
- Water pollution
- Soil pollution
- Contaminated of plants, fishes and animals with attendant health consequences following human consumption.
Economic effects included;
- Diversion of household income meant for other domestic issues to fund health problems resulting from black soot.
- Loss of man power and man hour to hydrocarbon and black soot air pollution related illnesses and subsequent loss of productive workforce to such health conditions.
Social effects include black soot air pollution-induced annoyance and attendant social unrest.
From the above, it can be deduced that the health, environmental, economic and social effects of hydrocarbon and black soot related air pollution are far more endangering on humans and the environment and must be given keen attention and speedy solution in stemming this epidemic looming to explode and get out of proportion and
The time to act is now, let’s walk the talk now and save our children, our future and our environment from this man-made disaster, let’s not roll the ball down the hill to our children, we created it and we must fix it, we cannot afford to fail our children and future generations on this, sustainable development is the way to go and the global best practice.
The way forward:
A multi-sectorial, multi-disciplinary and collective approach is needed in proffering solutions to this evolving epidemic.
I enjoin on all relevant learned bodies such as the Nigeria Medical Association, Bayelsa State annexe, the Nigerian Bar Association, Bayelsa state branch, the Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria, Bayelsa state arm, the Nigerian Society of Engineers, Bayelsa State branch and other relevant NGOs and critical stakeholders for continuous advocacy and engagement of relevant state and federal government agencies and ministries on this to proffer urgent solution to this problem.
I also urge the Bayelsa state government to engage all relevant stakeholders at the state and federal levels to urgently tackle this problem.
I call on the federal government of Nigeria and relevant federal ministries and agencies to expedite actions in proffering solutions to this menace.
I urge and call on the federal ministry of petroleum resources and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to expedite action on the establishment of modular refineries in the Niger Delta and productively engage and employ the crude oil refining skills of artisan petroleum Refiners in clean and environmentally friendly modular refining methods, techniques and technology through public-private partnership arrangements.
Finally, I also use this avenue to call on all Law Makers (Senators and Members of House of Representatives) from the Niger Delta to assume their requisite legislative responsibilities and liaise with critical stakeholders in expediting actions for the establishment of modular refineries in the Niger Delta region.
Black soot in Yenagoa is already out of proportion, it is never too late to get it right, the time to act is now.
Remember, the wind blows from North to South and South to North, Black soot-like harmattan, is carried and spread by wind across lands and borders, hence everyone is affected in varying scales, thus no Northern Southern dichotomy from the effects of hydrocarbon and black soot related air pollution.
Black soot air pollution is a ticking time bomb waiting to explode on all of us soonest, this is the time to face reality.
Please, read and forward this message to everyone and all stakeholders should read and act now, we are all affected.
Dr Inenyo Esinte
Department of Public Health,
F.M.C Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
Secretary, Association of Public Health Physicians of Nigeria (APHPN) Bayelsa State Chapter.