Dr. Olufemi Agboola, Director of Engineering and Space Systems at the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA), Abuja, in this interview with HELEN OJI speaks on air quality and the effects on the environment.
Can you tell us more about air quality?
Air quality refers to the condition of the air within our surrounding. Good air quality pertains to the degree which the air is clean, clear and free from pollutants such as smoke, dust and gaseous impurities in the air. Air quality is determined by assessing a variety of pollution indicators and good air quality is requirement for preserving the exquisite balance of life on earth for humans, plants, animals and naturals resources are threatened when pollution in the air reach high concentration. Much of the pollution that’s affecting our air comes from human activities. It is a result of manufacturing, transportation and a dependence on fossil fuels like gas and coal. Exposure to pollutants like smoke, sulfates, nitrates and carbon can have a significant impact on both human health and the health of the earth.
We bring in stakeholders to brainstorm on air quality and those who are producing pollution, those who are causing pollution and those who monitor like environmental protection board, ministry of health, they are the ones to do awareness but we have the ability to tell if there is problem in the air, we notified them that the air is not go enough because alot of people cannot take these, a lot of people are very sick and from time to time there should be a conference that will look into the air quality intake of Nigerians. Sometimes is not only human being that these pollution affect but if the industry release pollution into the air and rain mix with it and falls in another place that rain can form some acid that can kill some vegetation and before it gets to human being, the plant is already affected.
What are those policies that can safeguard the citizens from harmful effects of air pollutants?
There is how we detect air pollutants by putting something in the air to detect that there is something wrong in the atmosphere and we tell the public or we work with the environmental agencies which is here in Abuja and scientifically we tell you what is there.
What are the effects on the environment?
Our center for space transportation in Lagos lunch a rocket into the air almost has high where the aircraft is and some pollutants, they don’t move on the surface they move high a little beat before they move around which if you having a pollution in Abuja it can be taking effect in Kano, for example you have harmattan and dust, this dust is coming from the desert which is above Nigeria. The dust did not come from the ground it came through the air and that gives you an idea of what pollution is and the pollution that is in the air like that, needs to be monitor and if you monitor, you need to be worried about the spread and where is going to and we have those who can scientifically monitor it. E.g. every car that is driving releases something into air and that is smoke which is harmful to the environment; the smoke that comes out of the car tells you that the engine is bad.
The generator also produces pollution and what we do is to monitor whether the pollution is high or not, what we do is to lunch something into air to see the quality of the air and what is in the air, there are different types of environmental emission, Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Nitroxide (NOx) and carbon monoxide (CO) which is something we don’t want to see.
How does population growth affect the air quality in the environment?
Nigeria, explosive population growth and its attendant rural-to-urban migration, industrial expansions had led to excessive emission of wide range of air pollutants into the atmospheric environment and the rise in population in the West African sub-region has contributed to increase of anthropogenic emissions of air pollutants and has made the air unsafe. The massive economic, population growth and urbanization were expected to lead to a tripling of anthropogenic emissions in southern part of West Africa between 2000 and 2030.
When the city is occupied, we are going to cook and anytime we cook we release smoke whether we like it or expect those that are using gas that will have clean air because there is no smoke and as far as your stove is not blue but is coming out with the yellow light, definitely you will release smoke into the air. In Nigeria the pollution from the okada and industries is also producing pollution; I think in our own case we have more pollution with the okada because they are in one place, so we prefer that people would have stay in their rural area than in city center.
What is the effect of these emissions on human activities, ecosystems and food security?
Anthropogenic emissions are the main sources of greenhouse gases resulting from human activities which include burning of fossil fuel and deforestation leading to higher carbon dioxide concentrations in the air and that the emissions impact on human health, ecosystems, food security and the entire climate within the region was increasing at a very dangerous proportion.
The emission is what you release into the air and those emissions when release go to the atmosphere, for asthma patient they will have problems if the air is not clean up and everybody likes clean air so that you can have clean lungs but if the pollutant get to the upper atmosphere and the pollution mix with water and it depends on the pollutant, when sulphur mix with water it becomes sulphuric acid that is the one that goes into the plant and destroy the crops and food is endanger and we have cases like that in the world like U.S.A and China, in china were the air is so bad that people are using oxygen to breath and we are trying to make sure we don’t get to that stage.
What are the emissions that affect children and the elderly in their respiratory organ?
The emissions into the atmospheric environment include Particulate Matters (PMs) from vehicle exhausts, Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), Nitroxide (NOx) and Carbon Monoxide (CO).“NOx and SO2 are known to increase susceptibility to respiratory infections among children and elderly and also increase airway responsiveness in asthmatic individuals.
CO is known to cause tissue hypoxia thereby reducing the blood capacity to transfer oxygen. (Hypoxia is the deficiency in the amount of oxygen reaching the tissues).
In the long run, continuous exposures to these air pollutant concentrations lead to respiratory and cardiovascular morbidity, and eventually, increased mortality rate and the carbon monoxide that comes out from the generator we use in our homes and is very dangerous to the health and poisonous.
What can be done to avert air pollution in the country?
We can avert it when we have regular light and our transportation system is good like the railway system where people have to keep their cars at home and use the railway system. That is the only way we can avert pollution in the environment and in the country at large. We have to monitor the industries, companies and organization to make sure that they don’t pollute the air.