Staying Safe from the Effects of the Black Soot in Port Harcourt
Articles / 8 February, 2022
“You can’t breathe this type of fresh air in Borikiri”, said the gentleman to his friends. “Infact, in town, the air is different”
“what do mean?’’ one of the boys asked in confusion. “Ask her na, she stays at borokiri’’. “Is it true?’’. They asked Sandra.
It’s about the sootuation in Port Harcourt (as they call it on radio)
“It wasn’t that bad before’’. It was just floors and surfaces that turned black or stained soles of your feet or your hands when you touched them, but now a black cloud, covered Port Harcourt Literally!’’. You can tell it as you breathe in air. The air pollution that we know and learnt about, is now a norm in Port-Harcourt. Why and how did it get this bad?.
“But it is really bad I guess” she replied. “People say it reduced during the covid -19 lock down because of the decreased activities although I think it was the heavy rain that fell”. “Thank God for the rain if so”, Emeka said, “you all would have died”.
“Who told you?!” She retorted. “The black soot has spread to other parts of Rivers State, it may not be as bad as it is in those areas where the refining occurs but it is everywhere now believe me”.
“You guys should do something about it now” Emeka said pitifully “What can we do?”… Sandra replied.
A typical conversation in Port Harcourt, it is on everybody’s lips… If they are not talking about the black soot or KPO FIRE, they are not in Port Harcourt.
WHAT IS BLACK SOOT?.
Black soot is defined as a by-product of combustion. Simply, small black particles that are formed as a result of burning, they can stay in the air for months, floating or they can fall to surfaces of things.
There are claims that black soot or sootuation in Port Harcourt is as a result of burning fuel fossils. With that being the case. Everybody is part of the problem because soot can come in any of the following.
- Use of improperly refined kerosene - This increases the amount of soot in 2 ways. Firstly, encouraging and patronizing bunkering through increasing demand, thereby increasing production and, secondly, the smoke produced from kpo fire kerosene which contributes some part of the bunkering. The cost of cooking gas has caused people to give attention to kerosene stoves for cooking. Normally, well refined kerosene doesn’t produce much smoke like that of improper refined ones. Due to the affordability of the kpo fire kerosene, it is popularly accepted and used by a gross amount of the population.
- Cars using improperly refined fuels. Affordability again! Commercial drivers claim that it is more profitable using kpo - fire petrol. Fuels from bunkers is combined with fuels from filling station (known as super). Exhaust pipes of cars release these into our atmosphere polluting it. Also, the demand for the fuel motivates the production of more kpo - fire fuel.
- Suppliers of the improperly refined fuels. (Activities of Bunkers or illegal refinery). This is believed to be the major cause of soot in Port Harcourt. Normally, crude oil is processed (separated, converted, and treated) before used. Illegal refinery, however, steal crude oil or obtain them and then process them, but not to acceptable standards used in producing properly refined fuels.The fuel is cooked or burned locally to produce products like kerosene, diesel and petrol. The cooking process releases soot particles into the atmosphere. The machinery for this illegal processing is also not advanced enough to manage the vast amounts of soot released into the atmosphere. Several of such refineries are available, releasing gross amount of smoke into the air thus causing the most amount of soot.
- Burning and destroying of illegal refinery. Soot contain carbon monoxide(CO) ,sulphur dioxide (SO) and nitrogen dioxide(N0) that are deleterious to health and the environment. Due to this, such illegal bunkering camps are being shut down. Most times, the camps and products of fuel are burnt. Burning bad fuel produces and releases more soot into the air.
The Effects Of Black Soot
1. Irritation of organs such as the eye, nose and throat. Tiny particles or soot made of CO, NO, SO gets into the eyes causing redness or the nose or mouth, it can get to the throat.
- From the nose it can harm the upper respiratory tract causing upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), inflaming organs and tissues there leading to asthma, chronic cough, bronchitis, Pharyngitis, etc. Inhalation over a prolonged time may lead to cancer.
- Due to prolong exposure, mutations occurs within cells leading to different cancers; skin cancer, lung cancer etc. Which can lead to death.
- Increased incidence of fire outbreaks - Due to the instability of these products they are easily flammable, (more flammable than well processed fuel which is also highly flammable). Fire outbreaks cost loss of lives, properties and there is also the economic effect of managing the implications of fire accidents.
- Cost of managing ailment is also an implication.
- Acid rain due to NO2
In 2015, the world bank reported that 94% of the Nigerian population is exposed to air pollution and its damage costs about 1% loss on Gross National Income; and this was before the soot was first mentioned in 2016. United Nations Environmental Program(UNEP) Estimates that 600,000 persons die yearly in Africa due to air pollution.
Doctors in Port - Harcourt has reported increased incidence of URTIs and asthma in people of all ages. There are claims that there is an increased use of antibiotics for URTIs by Pharmacies in Port Harcourt.
Unknown ongoing effects of soot in our bodies that may manifest when least expected or when it has eaten deep into our bodies and the body is to weak to fight it.
- Frequent washing of hands - This simple good hygiene habit cannot be overemphasized, it can prevent a lot of health issues. Washing the hands gets rid of soot particles and other harmful substances. Our hands are the fastest means of contacting toxins after inhalation.
- Use of nose masks - Covering the nose and mouth reduces inhalation of the soot as good nose masks filter the air we breathe reducing or preventing particles from entering into the body via nose /mouth. Drastic situation call for drastic measures therefore Nose masks should be worn as frequent as possible.
- Regular cleaning of surfaces and floors - Another good hygiene practice that will go a long way to reduce the effects of black soot, both in our domestic lives and health. Reducing the amount of soot that gets in contact with our bodies
- Take fruits and vegetables - An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Well, it must not be apple, fruits and vegetables containing vitamins and minerals that can boost your immune system and also mop up free radicals in the body capable of causing harm and encourage normal functioning of body parts and cells.
- Multivitamin/supplements - Vitamins like C, A, E, Zinc, selenium, omega 3, astaxanthin, etc will also enhance the immune system and help the body function properly.
- Reduce or eradicate the use of contraband fuel products - People should as much as possible try to reduce the use of contraband fuel products, it encourages production and sale of more illegal fuel products.
- Fix an appointment with your doctor.Regular checkups are the best way to monitor your one’s health. Early detection or early suspicion can aid in proper treatment and recovery. Routine checkups for overall body assessment is very helpful to achieve disease free state.
- Cover food and water reservoirs - This prevents soot particles from getting to them preventing intake of soot