Subtle harm from the ‘seemingly’ harmless (1)

Are you a fan of party jollof? 

That smoky red jollof served at a typical Nigerian owanbe party. I am quite sure your answer will be positive. Most of us wouldn’t stop at one plate when it comes to this type of jollof. We love it smoky because the smoke from the firewood has this special effect and adds some sort of magical spice to the rice. However, do you know that this process of cooking with firewood can be hazardous? Don’t roll your eyes yet. Let’s do a bit of research.

The World Health Organisation estimates that the smoke from burning wood fuels is a major cause of women and children mortality in Nigeria. It is responsible for 95, 000 deaths per year due to complications caused by the inhalation of smoke from biofuels.  This makes it the third-highest killer after malaria and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Source: Business Day News; Jan 14th, 2020.

In addition, a report by the WHO in 2012 reveals that, “if a woman inhales smoke while cooking breakfast, lunch and dinner, it is equivalent to smoking between 3-20 packets of cigarettes a day.”

Although the study has it that the complete combustion of wood does not have an adverse effect on the environment, this is not often the case in Nigeria, most woods are not completely burnt, and this leads to the emission of pollutants such as methane, carbon monoxide, and nitrogen oxides. These gases are very dangerous to the health and they add to the greenhouse gas emission.

Carbon monoxide reacts with other pollutants in the air to form potentially harmful ground-level ozone.

Inhalation of carbon monoxide at high concentrations can be fatal, because it prevents the transport of oxygen (in blood) around the body. Releases from poorly maintained appliances in poorly ventilated spaces could result in concentrations high enough to cause death. Long-term exposure to lower concentrations could harm unborn babies or cause neurological damage.

Written by Oluwabukola Olajide