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Menace of smoky vehicles on Lagos roads, implications to health

The streets of Lagos and the highways sometimes become dark, not with clouds but thick exhaust fumes from vehicles often referred to as rickety.

Many motorists, pedestrians and other road users may not be aware of the dangers in inhaling carbon monoxide (Co). But can they escape their devastating health implications?

Carbon monoxide Co, according to Oxford English Dictionary, is a poisonous, colourless, odourless and tasteless gas. This means that the discharge of this harmful waste product (fume), into the atmosphere is dangerous to health.

Personal observation on Apapa/Oshodi Expressway on a particular day revealed how huge volumes of carbon monoxide released by a smoky passenger bus almost caused the death of a motor cyclist, as he nearly ran underneath the heavily smoky bus. As an experienced motorcycle rider, he forced himself to stop abruptly to allow the bus to give a distance before he continued with his journey.

For pedestrians on highways, they have to use handkerchiefs to cover their nostrils to reduce the amount of the fumes they have to inhale. The situation is more pathetic with asthmatic patients.

Commenting on the health implications of inhaling emissions from smoky vehicles, a public health physician, Prof. Akin Oshibogu, said the issue of carbon monoxide is a major public health concern particularly in Lagos, describing it as a serious public health issue because it can cause lung cancer, pneumonitis and bronchitis and also trigger asthmatic attacks.

Prof. Oshibogu, former Chief Medical Director, LUTH, noted that the fumes are dangerous because they inhibit the blood’s ability to carry oxygen to vital organs such as the heart and the brain.

Another medical expert who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said people easily conclude that they have influenza when they experience headaches, fatigue, malaise and nausea, but the truth could be that they have inhaled doses of carbon monoxide and their system is just reacting to the poison because the entire atmosphere is heavily polluted by all kinds of emissions particularly the ones from smoky vehicles.

According to him, a particular woman who is a road side trader had experienced bouts of headache, sometimes very severe without knowing it was caused by the fumes she inhaled. He explained that the woman said the invasive headaches she experienced were sometimes accompanied by fatigue, which greatly affected her sales, as she usually had to close early during the attacks.

She didn’t realise in time that it was the fumes from exhaust pipes that were creating so much problem for her because any time she had the headaches and fatigue, she would buy a pain killer; until she visited the clinic”, he stated.

In his comment, the spokesperson of the Federal Road Safety Corps FRSC, Lagos sector command, Mr. Bisi Kazeem who said the Commission is particularly interested in ridding the Nigerian highways of rickety vehicles, added that “When harmful gases like carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, hydrocarbons, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are released into the air, the resultant effect ranges from irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.

The effect also leads to vomiting, light-headedness, headache, heartburn, numbness, tightness in the chest, tingling and wheezing. If concerted efforts of the Corps towards checking rickety vehicles have not been put in place, the highway to a large extent, the highways in Nigeria would have been a mess today.

Also responding to the menace of emissions from smoky vehicles on Lagos roads, the Managing Director, Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency LASEPA, Mr. Adebola Shaabi who said the Agency has a policy on it, noted that the menace of such emissions are worrisome. He disclosed that it is to address the issue that the state government is currently embarking on integrated transportation system which will bring to an end to movement of rickety and smoky vehicles on Lagos roads.

According to him, the integrated transportation system which include light rail, BRT and Lagbus will cause the disappearance of tired vehicles referred to as rickety or smoky vehicles from Lagos roads. He said when the system is fully operational, the issue of inhaling vehicular emissions will not arise anymore.

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