By SOLA OGUNDIPE
WORRIED by the rising incidence of death in the country from noxious portable generator-induced fumes, a member of the World Health Organisation, WHO, Advisory Panel of the Human Genetics Programme, Professor Olu Akinyanju, has called for urgent educational and awareness measures to stem the tide.
A Physician/ Haematologist, and Founder/ Chairman, Sickle Cell Foundation of Nigeria, Akinyanju remarked that in recent times nationwide, the wave of reports of untimely death from generator fumes had reached epidemic proportions.
Reacting to a recent incident of a new-wed couple that choked to death from generator fumes in their new home on the outskirt of Calabar, Cross River State, Akinyanju called for an effective national strategy against the menace.
“It is an epidemic and happens more often than we think or expect. The story of the bride and groom who died after they went to bed with the generator on next door, is one that happens every day in this country and it is essential that we know how often it happens and where,” he noted.
Further, he said: “We are worried about people dying on the roads, but this one is happening right in the house. I know doctors who say it is so rampant, so we should be able to trace the specific incidents.You do not even know it is happening until it happens to your relatives. It is something of epidemic proportion now. In the last two months I know of at least two cases. The challenge is how to bring it to the attention of people.”
Urging the development of a control and prevention strategy, Akinyanju queried: “We have to prevent it, but how do we generate enough publicity to warn people that they should prevent it? How many people have died from generator fumes in Nigeria within the last nine months of this year? How many have died over the last five years in each State across the Federation? Can our pathologists tell us?
I have no doubt the answers would be scary. Let us find out how bad it is and let us see if we can do a state-by-state compilation. If we can get one or two doctors involved in this research and do it systematically, we will discover that this thing is a quiet killer.” Further, he said: “It is a silent epidemic. Nobody hears anything, nobody feels anything. It just happens.” Generator fumes comprise a lethal cocktail of poisonous and environmentally unfriendly gases including carbon monoxide and other noxious products, produced from incomplete combustion of hydrocarbon fuels notably petrol, diesel or a mixture of petrol and engine oil.
Health records provide evidence that constant exposure to emmissions from generators has proved hazardous to human wellbeing affecting the lungs and causing lasting health problems such as cancer, premature birth, low weight babies and neonatal abnormalities, cerebral palsy, etc., as well as numerous deaths.