– Preventing Asthma in Nigeria is really a major issue for the citizens.
– World health organization has made it clear that everyone living in states like Lagos and Onitsha are prone to having asthma.
The World Health Organisation has described major cities in Nigeria, the commercial capital of the country, as one of the most polluted cities in the world.
WHO noted in its recent report after measuring the air quality from over 3,000 cities in the world, and states like Lagos, Onitsha and the likes are ranked as the lowest. Kaduna, Aba and Umuahia are also among the 20 cities with the worst air quality globally.
The health agency stated that a study of Nigerians, found more than 100 petrol filling stations in the city selling low-quality fuel, just as there were several refuse dumps, fuel spills along with high levels of arsenic, mercury, lead, copper and iron in its water.
The WHO said,” The level of pollution in cities like Lagos, is getting increasingly serious. Onitsha’s average annual PM10 was recorded to be 594, which is nearly 30 times greater than the recommended annual PM10 level of 20.”
Confronted with such information in another society, perhaps, the Anambra State Government would have declared a state of emergency by now. Yet, the report confirms what experts have always said about the air quality in Nigeria.
Air pollution and asthma
According to Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Lagos, Prof. Oladapo Ashiru, Nigeria faces an imminent outbreak of diseases that are exacerbated by air pollution.
They include asthma, stroke, tuberculosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and heart disease.
Ashiru says that smoke from the exhaust pipes of vehicles can affect the functions of the lungs, promote allergic reactions, cause airway constriction and predispose those who inhale such polluted air to asthma.
He says, “All vehicles, especially diesel engines, emit very fine particles that deeply penetrate the lungs and inflame the circulatory system, thereby damaging cells and causing respiratory problems.
“Asthmatic children are particularly sensitive to air pollution. In the developed countries, automobile exhaust pipes are subjected to periodic inspection to determine the level of toxic emissions, once it is beyond acceptable levels, the automobile operator must service, change exhaust and recertify the vehicle before driving it.
“Unfortunately this does not happen in Nigeria. Inhalation of vehicle emissions, even for short periods, may be harmful to asthmatics. One study found that children are 40 per cent more likely to have an attack on high outdoor pollution days.”
Air pollution and cancer
Although many Nigerians already know that tobacco smoking increases their risk of developing lung cancer, very few people are aware of the fact that dirty air can predispose them to cancer of the lungs, among other diseases.
In fact, after reviewing the number of people that died of lung cancer in the last decade worldwide, which is estimated at 1.3 million, the International Agency for Cancer Research declared that breathing in polluted air is as dangerous as inhaling tobacco smoke.
The IACR says that air pollution is an official cause of many forms of cancer especially that of the lungs.
Statistics in 2010 shows that over 222, 000 people died of lung cancer that was caused by air pollution, not tobacco smoking.
Chest Physician, Dr. James Chukwu, explains that the accumulation of dirt and pollutants in the lungs through the air we breathe in from the environment could damage the lungs and other vital organs in the chest region.
He states that some compounds in the air we breathe, such as petrol and diesel exhausts are toxic and they have the same effect on the lungs as dangerous chemicals.
Chukwu says, “It is now official that breathing dirty air can cause respiratory cancers. Dust in the air, pollutants from generators in our homes, our cars and other industrial activities in the environment that we breathe in and out of the body can damage the lungs, arteries, block blood circulation and even cause sudden death.
“The complex mixture of gases, fine particles and other pollutants in the air are carcinogenic to humans. And the effect of polluted air starts in the lungs before it spreads to the blood vessels and other parts of the chest.
“Indoor and outdoor air pollution is a leading cause of cancer in cities, and we must all make a collective effort to limit our exposure to them, especially to children.”
There is only one way to improve the air quality in our environment: clean up the air. It may sound so simple, but it is a difficult task for those living in countries like Nigeria, where environmental policies have been thrown in the trash.
For those who want to avoid inhaling polluted air, Chukwu says using alternative source of energy is important.
“If you are using generators, you should consider switching to solar energy. That way you are not burning any fuel.
“If you are living in an area where there are too many industrial activities, you should consider moving to another environment. It is that crucial. If you have children, you must limit their exposure to environmental pollution both at home and in school.
“Air pollution is worse in children because it could lead to asthma, pneumonia and other cancers of the blood and the lungs.”