Air pollution is the introduction of substances that have harmful or poisonous effects that can be damaging to humans, flora or fauna into the air. Climate change and air pollution can share similar sources but they are essentially different. For example, transportation can cause both air pollution and the release of greenhouse gases. A major differentiating factor is that air pollutants release more than greenhouse gases, they release toxic pollutants that can be damaging to both nature and man. While it may seem like most air pollution occurs outside the home, air pollution can occur both outside the home and inside the home. Exposure to these pollutants can cause serious health issues to humans and even lead to death. 

Air pollution can be manmade or occur naturally. Natural air pollution comes from dust that is blown by the wind, volcanoes, and wildfires, while manmade air pollution comes from activities carried out by man, some of these activities are even day to day activities we indulge in. For example, fossil fuel burning in transportation is a major source of air pollution. This kind of pollution can sometimes be classified as coming from a mobile source, which are cars, buses, planes, trucks, and trains. The activities of power plants, oil refineries, and factories also release toxic chemicals such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, and organic compounds into the air, thus damaging the air around them. Agriculture also contributes to air pollution as it releases the dangerous gas ammonia into the air, other useful agricultural aids such as pesticides, fertilizers, and insecticides can also contribute to air pollution.

“It has been proven that air pollution can have negative effects on humans, it is said to cause 6 million deaths worldwide per year.”

It has been proven that air pollution can have negative effects on humans, it is said to cause 6 million deaths worldwide per year. Smog and soot which are common air pollutants have dire negative effects. Soot can get into the lungs and the bloodstream, worsen bronchitis, cause heart attacks and increase the chances of death. Smog can also harm the lungs and it can irritate the eyes and throat. It can be even more irritating to people with asthma or allergies as it can make their symptoms worse or cause asthma attacks and apart from this, it can kill people faster. Other harmful pollutants can in the least irritate the skin eyes and lungs and at most affect the immune, nervous and endocrine systems. Air pollutants may cause harm to the brain and kidneys of children, affect the ability of a child to learn, be harmful to the fetus, cause stroke, and even cancer. Yet poor countries like Nigeria do not do enough to curb air pollution.

In Nigeria, air pollution is a health risk. A 2018 Global Air Report by the Health Effects Institute (HEI) ranked Nigeria as the 4th global deadliest country in air pollution. The report also stated that air pollution in Nigeria caused 150 deaths per 100,000 persons. Only Afghanistan with 406, Pakistan, 207, and India, 195 deaths per 100,000 people exceed the death in Nigeria. Also, Onitsha, Kaduna, Aba, Umuahia were among four of the 20 African cities with the worst quality of air in the world according to a 2016 World Health Organization (WHO) report. 

It will be hard to curb air pollution in Nigeria as it is not uncommon to see darkened air polluted clouds around big and industrial cities. The country sources more than 70% of its fuel from fossil fuel which is a common cause of air pollution. There is also the use of generators whose fumes and emissions release toxic air pollutants like carbon monoxide which has been known to be lethal to people, even killing families overnight with carbon monoxide poisoning. Other common activities like the burning of kerosene, coal, and firewood for cooking fuel, bush burning, and uncontrolled waste burning contribute to air pollution in Nigeria. Other sources are automobile emissions, pipeline explosions, industrial emissions, and gas flaring.

A major part of the problem of air pollution in a country like Nigeria is that we have weak laws and people do not know what to do to reduce pollution or how to protect themselves. To curb air pollution, we must educate people about it, people should know the diseases it brings and why we need clean air as humans, so they can reduce activities that pollute the air around them. For one, cars that release toxic chemicals into the air can be identified and removed from the road. To prevent the heavy use of generators, the country needs to sort out its electricity problem, which may seem like a long time coming but we may also switch to using other energy sources like solar energy to help power our operations. We can also urge the government to make and enforce legislation that dissuades air pollution as a country. To fight refuse burning, the country needs to embrace proper refuse disposal and recycling. We also need to work to reduce gas flaring by oil companies and stop illegal refineries that flare gas. Finally, manufacturing companies and factories need to be monitored to follow guidelines that would help to lessen air pollution here in Nigeria. 

The National Environmental Standards and Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) has as one of its duties the task to monitor and curb air pollution. They have been effective in shutting down factories that produce coal by cutting down and burning trees and have also encouraged the planting of trees to curb air pollution and desertification. They also aim, to control the emission of air pollutants into the air from faulty cars and generators. NESREA has a vehicular emissions program that is only functional in a few states which they hope to expand. While the NESREA has been working, it needs to increase the enforcement of its standards and regulations to help keep the air in Nigeria safer.

We need to fight air pollution to decrease the health risks associated with it. We have to also practice activities that will protect us from air pollutants such as purchasing an air humidifier for our homes if we can, staying away from areas with heavy traffic and smog. We should also cover our noses when we get into heavily polluted areas to avoid breathing in pollutants. To be able to achieve less pollution, we need to find better ways to manage our pollution with the government and the people working together to curb it.  

Next articleClimate Change and its effects on Nigeria
Ayo Adeyemi is an alumnus of Ajayi Crowther university where she graduated with honours in History and International Studies. She further bagged a masters in international management from the prestigious University of Liverpool. She is an avid reader, pouring over books from diverse disciplines to gain more knowledge of the world and different societies; a hobby that triggered her interest in community development and safe environment advocacy, an area she aims to get people more informed about. Knowledgeable in marketing, project management and research, she aims to use these skills to bring a sustainable change within communities she finds her practice.



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