Carbon Monoxide: The Colourless, Odourless Killer

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When the phrase “air pollution” pops up anywhere, most people tend to limit it to the harmful gases that are suspended into the air due to various human activities.

 

Whether you are in an enclosed space or in the open, the air around is prone to poisonous elements such as Carbon monoxide.

 

Carbon Monoxide (CO) otherwise known as “the silent killer” is a poisonous, colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. CO poisoning typically occurs from breathing it in at excessive levels. It causes severe damage in the body as it displaces oxygen in the blood and deprives the heart, brain, and other vital organs of oxygen.

 

CO is produced by devices that burn fuels. Therefore, any fuel-burning appliance or machine in your home is a potential CO source. A commonly used machine in an average Nigerian home is the Generator. Given the epileptic situation of the country’s electricity supply, it is not uncommon to find generators in every household and business place.

 

However, the awareness on the dangers of inhaling this gas seems not to be enough as news of people getting killed by this toxic air is still being reported in the media. CO poisoning remains a major health issue that is underestimated in Nigeria.

 

The popular Computer Village in Ikeja, Lagos, an information and Communication Technology hub, is one place many businessmen and traders have to rely on noisy and smoky generators to run their operations.

 

There is little left to the imagination on how CO poisoning is trivialised as every shop owner has generating sets, whether big or small.

 

Given the overpopulation of the tech hub, it is not hard to see that the air in that environment is as toxic as the word itself. When the electricity supply is cut, all shop owners power their generators to keep the business running.

 

 

“I don’t think most of the shop owners here realise how dangerous the smoke coming out of generators are. Look at that corner, you see how cramped up it is? I can bet you that all the shops there have ‘I better pass my neighbour’ generators. They will never hear. I once told a man who faced his generator’s exhaust pipe into his shop that it is bad for him to be inhaling that thing. His response was ‘one thing must kill a man’. The funny thing is even if someone here dies of inhaling that smoke, they still wouldn’t believe it. They would still think it is a spiritual attack from a competitor”, a shop owner who identified himself as Tochi revealed.

 

“The symptoms of CO poisoning commonly include headache, dizziness, weakness, vomiting, chest pain and flu-like symptoms. That is why it is easy to dismiss them as the effect of the gas poisoning because the symptoms I mentioned are also related to other illnesses. I think the government needs to do better on sensitising the citizens on the dangers of inhaling carbon monoxide and the kinds of machines that emit them. Since it is colourless and mostly mixes with other gases, it is difficult to tell which is which”, a medical doctor at Ifako Ijaiye General hospital said.

 

Generators should always be placed at least 20 feet away from apartments, shops or offices. It is also advised that the machines should be serviced regularly to reduce the exhaust fumes being emitted while they are being run.

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