Over 470,000 Nigerians are believed to have died from firewood smoke-induced ailments in the past five years.
The World Health Organisation recently said smoke from open fire is Nigeria’s third biggest killer with over 95,000 deaths annually behind Malaria and HIV/AIDS.
It added that the majority of the people affected are women, who cook for their families and their children, who often stay close to them in the kitchen.
The draft National Gas Policy of the Ministry of Petroleum Resources, obtained by Saturday PUNCH, said, “According to WHO, smoke from open fire is Nigeria’s third biggest killer with over 95,000 deaths annually behind Malaria and HIV/AIDS.”
With 95,000 deaths annually, over 470,000 Nigerians must have died from diseases contracted as a result of being exposed to open fire smoke between 2011 and 2016 and this, experts said, was worrisome.
The policy document said approximately 30 million households and more than 100 million Nigerians depend on wood as a source of energy for cooking, adding that the situation had come with collateral damage to human health, environment and the economy of the country.
The International Energy Agency in the World Energy Outlook, 2012, said over 120 million Nigerians rely on solid fuels (wood, charcoal, agricultural residues or animal waste) for cooking.
The Global Burden of Disease 2010 study, the biggest survey of global health ever undertaken, also found out that four million people die prematurely every year from illnesses linked directly and indirectly to indoor air pollution due to the use of solid fuel and virtually all of them are in poor developing countries like Nigeria.
A paediatrician with the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Rotimi Adesanya, described smoke from open fire as hazardous to health, while stressing that children are mostly at risk.
He said, “When there is smoke from open fire, gases are emitted and some of the gases are poisonous to the system. Gases like carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide and many other gases are very dangerous to the human health. Some people have pneumonia in the process, especially small children.
“And pneumonia is one of the main causes of mortality in children, after malaria and diarrhoea. It is the third child killer disease; it kills children on a daily basis.”
Also, the President, Nigeria Medical Association, Prof. Mike Ogirima, described the problem as serious, saying persistent exposure to smoke from open fire can lead to health challenges.
He said, “It can be serious if it happens in an enclosed environment and there is the possibility of inhaling carbon monoxide, which is very bad for health. It is a serious issue, especially in highly polluted environments. Carbon monoxide is dangerous because it can reduce the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.”
The President, Nigerian Liquefied Petroleum Gas Association, Mr. Dayo Adeshina, who lamented the deaths of many Nigerians to smoke-induced ailments, emphasised the need to use Liquefied Petroleum Gas (cooking gas) which brings manifold benefits to human health, environment as well as economy of Nigeria.
“As a domestic cooking fuel, LPG therefore presents valuable opportunities to simultaneously combat climate change, reverse deforestation and improve community health and rural economy and livelihood,” the policy document said.