Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Environmental Risk Factors and Health Outcomes in Selected Communities of the Niger Delta Area, Nigeria

Academic journal article Perspectives in Public Health

Environmental Risk Factors and Health Outcomes in Selected Communities of the Niger Delta Area, Nigeria

Article excerpt

Key words

environmental pollutants; ecosystems health; morbidities; Niger delta communities; Nigeria

Abstract

Aims: The main aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of various health outcomes associated with exposure to environmental risk factors including industrial pollution in selected communities of Nigeria's oil-rich Niger delta area (NDA).

Methods: The study involved both laboratory experiments and community health surveys using questionnaires and hospital records. A total of 14 air samples, 16 grab soil samples and 18 surface water samples were collected and analyzed for physicochemical parameters including heavy metals and polycycfic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) using standard methods. A 77-item questionnaire was administered on randomly selected 349 subjects. A five-year record was collected from health facilities located in the two communities.

Results: The laboratory results indicated that the median PAH level at Eleme as compared to Ahoada East was higher than the guideline limit 50 ng/l for surface waters. The mean TSP level at Eleme was higher than the level at Ahoada East and the guideline limit 100 µg/m^sup 3^. The median PAH level at Eleme was higher than the level at Ahoada East and the guideline limit < 100 ng/m^sup 3^ for air. The survey results showed that at Eleme air pollution in the community was significantly associated with painful body outgrowths (p = 0.027) and the effect the air contaminants has was significantly associated with respiratory health problem (p = 0.044). At Ahoada East commonly consumed aquatic food was highly significantly associated with painful body outgrowth (p < 0.0001) while use of domestic cooking fuel types was also highly significantly associated with child deformities (p < 0.0001). Hospital records showed high proportions of respiratory disorder among males (3.85%) and females (4.39%) at Eleme as compared to the proportion of respiratory disorder among males (3.68%) and females (4.18%) at Ahoada East.

Conclusions: The study shows that industrial communities such as Eleme, which are exposed to higher levels of air pollution, are more predisposed to respiratory morbidities, skin disorders and other related health risks.

INTRODUCTION

With increasing population growth and industrial activities, the magnitude of environmentaliy induced morbidities is reported to. be on the increase. The nature and pattern of such morbidities is usually a function of the diverse industrial processes and the characteristics of the affected communities. These industries include the petroleum oil and process industries. A large proportion (75%) of the petroleum in Nigeria is found in the coastal area of the Niger delta, which is the largest oil reserve in Africa and the 10th largest in the world.1 According to the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, there are 150 oilfields and 1 ,481 oil wells in the Niger delta region.2 As a result it has attracted numerous industrial establishments, whose activities tend to affect the quality of the environment and health of the populations.

Oil exploration causes a range of environmental problems including: contamination of both surface and ground water by benzene, xylene, toluene, ethylbenzene and other benzene derivatives; contamination of soil by oil spills and leaks; increased deforestation; economic loss and environmental degradation stemming from gas flaring.3 Gas flaring produces enormous amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG) including carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and propane.4 The World Bank estimated that about 10% of global CO2 emissions come from gas flaring. Nigerian gas flaring alone releases 35m tonnes of CO2 and 1 2m tonnes of CH4. CH^sub 4^ in particular has a more serious warming potential than CO2.5 Apart from GHG, the gas flaring also produces hazardous compounds that harm human health and ecosystems.

Studies6 indicated that predominant compounds such as volatile organic compounds and PAHs were found at heights measured 5m above the sweet gas flare in Alberta, Canada. …

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