WARNING! Doctor Highlights Health Risks In Inhaling Lagos Dumpsite Smoke
Samuel was searching and brushing the burnt waste with a stick and he appeared more interested in the finds he could make than he was in the effect of the smoke he inhaled.
Survival was his only interest.
He is a scavenger and he comes to Olusosun Dumpsite near Ojota, Lagos, to pick pieces of iron and other metals that he could sell to keep body and soul together.
But his quest had been tampered by the heat in Lagos which had triggered fire at the site, causing huge smoke to billow into the air.
It resulted in pollution, the kind that has not been seen in years.
People leaving around the area could tell the sad story of how difficult it was to breath, but Samuel, who needed to earn money visits the dumpsite at least two times in a week damning the smoke.
On one of his visits, Bounce News' health correspondent, Williams Osewezina had a chat with him.
Williams said he could hardly breath within the environment, but Samuel was busy picking stuffs when he saw him.
He had no nose mask.
Are you not disturbed by this smoke? he asked Samuel.
The Scavenger, who responded in pidgin English said: "I no dey like use that thing. If I cover my nose I dey feel like e dey block something inside (I don’t use the face mask because I have a feeling it stops me from breathing fine)".
Just like Samuel, there were other young scavengers around and the fire may have made their search what to sell easier.
They appear cool with the effect of the smoke which one of them said gave him nauseating feeling.
To be certain of the danger these people living around the smoke and the scavengers face, Bounce News had a chat with a public health specialist, with the Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, Dr. Eze Ugochukwu.
Dr. Ugochukwu said there were several health challenges that could occur from pollution resulting from burning of dumpsites.
"We need to look at some of the things that are released from the burning of dumpsites.
"We have what we call dioxin, furan, some mercury and sulphoric oxide are released.
"But our interest is in things like dioxin, furan and mercury released from burning of dump sites.
"These things particularly affect the respiratory system and sometimes the central nervous system or the brain with all its networks.
"On the respiratory system, it can cause respiratory tract infection and make people come down with asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
"On the long term, people can come down with cancer.
"Also, if lead is involved, which comes from E-waste, it can cause lead poisoning and it can affect the brain," the doctor said.
Everyone appears to have a share from the effect of the pollution, going by the comments of an environmentalist, Mrs Ugonma Cokey.
She is a Fellow of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and an Assistant Director, News, Voice of Nigeria.
"In such situation methane is produced and that is greenhouse emission there and it is already affecting the ozone layer.
"Furan is linked to cancer, liver problem and poor reproductive health.
"What we will have is that we will have children born who will not develop properly.
"What some of these chemicals do is that it brings down oxygen and that is why respiratory problem occur," she said.
While some persons manage to cover their nose with face mask, Dr. Ugochukwu said the mask will not do a lot.
"The mask actually does not do so much and that is because some of these particles are even smaller than the pores in those masks," he added.
Humans have limited control over the burning of waste dump sites, but Mrs Cokey and Dr. Ugochukwu recommend that people should stay away from such smoke, dispose their waste properly.
Mrs Cokey particulary stressed the need for more efforts by the government in terms of policies would encourage recycling of waste and the use of degradable materials in packaging products.