The climate is changing; rain forests are disappearing and rainfall is now unpredictable; our farmlands are becoming infertile; glaciers and polar ice caps are melting and sea levels are rising. Drought and floods are common, fresh water is becoming insufficient; wild plants and animals are becoming extinct. The sun is harsh on us and the roads are melting. Yes! The air is polluted!
Environmental pollution is increasing at an alarming rate. The harmful substances introduced into the air by the activities of man, resulting in imbalance in air quality is causing adverse effects and health challenges for living organisms existing on earth.
These pollutants also impact on the earth’s climate, causing global warming. Some of the air pollutants which cause global warming include green house gasses (GHG). One of these is carbon dioxide coming from car and truck exhausts and methane, which comes from gas emitted by livestock. GHG causes global warming by trapping heat from the sun in the earth’s atmosphere; they are supposed to be a natural part of the earth’s atmosphere, but it has increased beyond what the earth can cope with due to the activities of man, causing serious changes in the climate.
Many Nigerian rural settlements that had in the past enjoyed clean and healthy air are now experiencing severe air pollution from several air contaminants owing to industrialization and geometric increase in population. Some of these pollutants come from the burning of fossil fuels, wood, coal, and exhaust from cars; the use of biocides in agriculture, such as pesticides, insecticides, herbicides, burning of waste, etc. Additionally, the endless use of generators due to epileptic power supply also causes air pollution.
These pollutants not only have adverse effects on our health and that of wildlife species and animals, but also affect the climate. A recent study showed that the most polluted city in the world is in Nigeria – Onitsha. Such a discovery gives cause for concern because, the medical implications of this claim is numerous, as air pollution, as simple as it sounds, causes deaths, damage to lungs through organic dust particles resulting in asthma, bronchial cancer, reduces oxygen carrying capacity of the blood, inflames upper respiratory passages, induces coughing, damages red-blood cells and kidneys, and also causes jaundice.
A recent study by the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed that 98,000 Nigerian women die annually from smoke inhaled from cooking with firewood. Some of these pollutants affect the fertility of the soil, and also lead to deaths in animals. In fact, the study goes on to say that if a woman cooks breakfast, lunch and dinner with firewood, it is the equivalent to smoking between 3 and 20 packets of cigarettes a day. What it means is that, some women are involuntarily smoking out their lives in the process of cooking food!
Another study by Harvard scientists which is of serious concern to the developed world, is that honey bees are dying at an alarming rate. The implication of this development is that food supply will shrink because, one-third of the food we consume get pollinated by these bees. In fact, due to the importance of these bees, the scientists are already making a robotic honey bee to pollinate some of these foods, nuts and fruits. The major question is, “if the robotic bee can help in pollination, what about the medicinal value of the honey the bees provide? What are the future side effects of using the robotic bees for pollination?”
It has become increasingly evident that air pollution is affecting vegetation, as much as it is affecting human and animal lives. Therefore, the fight against pollution has become necessary and urgent, and the time is now!
Cutting down on those activities which result in air pollution is an important step we must all take to live healthy, and also hand over a habitable environment to future generations. We don’t need to wait for government to come with policies before cutting down on activities that affect the environment and our health. Some of these lifestyle changes are key:
- Conserve energy at home, at work and everywhere; we don’t need to leave the lights on (even if they are energy conserving bulbs) during the day.
- We must be sure that our tyres are properly inflated
- Use environmentally safe paints and cleaning agents whenever necessary
- Refuel your car in the evening, when the weather is cooler
- Reduce or eliminate fire place and wood stove
- Avoid bush burning
- It is essential to cut down on the amount of packaged goods we purchase and the amount of household waste we produce. The process of manufacturing and packaging releases harmful emissions into the atmosphere, and its transportation to the dump site also releases harmful emissions.
- Reduce the amount of time we spend in the car; whenever we can. We can do short distances on foot or ride a bike to errands.
- Plant as many trees as you can for every one cut down; carbon dioxide that pollutes and depletes the ozone layer is food for the trees.
- Re using leftovers and choosing organic foods that do not need chemicals in the production process.
As the saying goes ‘it is better late than never’. It is time for man to reduce the disasters and risks of air pollution and save the environment.
– Barr Jatto Ladi, is the Kogi State Project Coordinator for NEWMAP.