11 Apr

Yinka Badejo

With so much risk associated with smoke inhalation, it is imperative that people who work, live around or ply a polluted axis such as the Olusosun Ojota refuse dumpsite, in the Ketu area of Lagos should take some precautions. There is the need to avoid constantly  inhaling methane and noxious gases in the air.

Although activities at the dumpsite were practically shut down for weeks, following the fire that engulfed it, many people are back in the vicinity carrying out their daily activities despite the health risks involved.

A resident of the area, who identified herself as Praise Lamina, said, “I actually just got back home, but my experience with the pollution has not been a blissful one. The air made me ill for some time, which was one of the reasons I moved out.  I found it difficult to breathe for some time because the air had mixed up with whatever chemical coming from the dump.  Although the fumes have subsided, I feel it will take a while before we begin to breathe clean air again.”

Another resident who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent that the situation was worse some weeks ago as the fumes kept getting into the house despite all his household efforts to seal the house.

“We left due to government orders and because most of my family members started developing acute cough and sore throats. But as soon as I heard that the fumes had begun to abate I decided to move back,” he said.

According to experts, methane is a “simple asphyxiant” because it can displace oxygen, which is needed for breathing. Oxygen levels below 16 per cent can be dangerous and levels below 10 per cent can be deadly. There are no standards governing the permissible amount of methane in the air at home or in the workplace, but the minimum oxygen content for any place where people need to breathe is 18 per cent.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that carbon monoxide poisoning kills 500 people each year, which should make residents living in endangered areas take better precautionary steps in ensuring their health and safety.

For a 45 years old scavenger, who gave his name only as Musa, things have not been the same since the fire struck.

“They (government) asked us to leave the dump because it is not good for our  health. But how can I do that when this is the only business that feeds me every day? The things I get from the dump are what I sell to make money. I try to cover my nose and mouth any time I go in to pick for items.”

While the state Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, has said that the site will eventually be converted into a recreation centre, the government had, in March, asked residents living or working close to the site to leave for health reasons.

The Director-General, Lagos State Safety Commission, Hakeem Dickson, gave the notice of relocation to the residents during a press conference on ‘Vision Zero’ in Ikeja.

Dickson said, “The smoke has continued to billow and the advice became necessary to prevent health hazards.”

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Source: Punch