Residents of Port Harcourt have been inhaling soot that is damaging their lungs and properties.
Port Harcourt, the capital city of Rivers state which lies along the Bonny River in Nigeria’s oil-rich Niger-Delta region, is now engulfed in a dark, powdery, hazy soot that is making breathing and life difficult for residents.
The Garden City (as Port Harcourt is also known) is now a dark city, “literally.”
When did the soot begin?
Early 2017, residents of Port Harcourt noticed an unusual dark sky with tiny, black particles falling from it. On February 10, 2017, Pulse reported on the environmental pollution taking place in the Rivers State capital.
No one knows where the soot is coming from
No one knows exactly where the soot is coming from. Some have blamed kpo-fires—illegal refineries that dot Rivers State and much of the oil-rich Niger Delta. Others have blamed everything else under the sun.
The effect of soot on health
According to a published paper by Okhumode H. Yakubu of the Department of Public Health Sciences, College of Health and Social Services Building, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces in December 2017, the effect of the soot on health of humans is enormous.
The paper titled ‘Particle (Soot) Pollution in Port Harcourt Rivers State, Nigeria—Double Air Pollution Burden? Understanding and Tackling Potential Environmental Public Health Impacts’ notes that: “Soot penetrates deep down in the lungs, imparting a wide range of serious health outcomes, including acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma among children, heart attacks, and strokes,
as well as premature death.”
AFP reports that doctors in Port Harcourt say they are seeing the health effects of the soot already, with an increase in consultations for breathing difficulties, including asthma.
Children and the elderly are most at risk. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) estimates some 600,000 people die in Africa every year as a result of air pollution.
Environmentalists are also sounding the alarm, as the soot has been found to contain sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide, which cause acid rain when combined with moisture.
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