The immediate past Rivers State Chairman of the Nigerian Medical Association, Dr. Furo Green, has warned that six million residents of Rivers State could be at the risk of developing cancer if nothing is done to stop the hydrocarbon soot spreading across the state.
Green, a consultant surgeon at the Braithwaite Memorial Specialist Hospital in Port Harcourt, expressed worry over the prevalence of hydrocarbon soot, a black substance that has spread across some parts of the state.
He said there was a need for government at all levels to identify the source of the pollution that had made residents of the state uncomfortable.
Residents of the state have continued to raise the alarm since they noticed the spread of the black substance.
Speaking in Port Harcourt, Green stated that government must take a close look at the activities of companies involved in hydrocarbon processing.
He noted that children were more at risk of developing respiratory problems after inhaling the hydrocarbon particles known as soot.
According to him, “We suddenly noticed an increased discharge of black powdery matter in the environment, which the Ministry of Environment has traced to hydrocarbon.
“The implication of inhaling these hydrocarbon particles is that it can lead to acute inflammation of the airways which can lead to hyper stimulation of the airway and actually precipitate asthmatic attack in individuals who are predisposed to it.
“Over a long period of time it can lead to obstruction of the airways which we refer to as chronic bronchitis. When this condition goes on for long, it can end up as malignancy or even kill the individual,” Green added.
He stated that the figure of those that could be affected by the spread of the soot could be more than six million, adding that the hydrocarbon particles had also found their way to Lagos and some neighbouring states.
“Hydrocarbons after prolonged exposure can predispose one to cancer, especially that of the lungs, because that is the area where they settle.
“In children, the effect can be unpredictable; a child that is very normal now could actually develop an acute respiratory problem, meaning that that a child who has never had asthma can actually develop it.
“If care is not taken, the child could die from asphyxia. So the effect of these particles are more pronounced in children right now but over a period of time, it will lead to lung diseases,” Green added.
He, however, advised residents to embrace hand washing to avoid any infectious disease that may emanate from contact with soot.
It will be recalled that the task force established by the Rivers State Government has shut down three firms allegedly involved in the pollution of the environment.