In recent times, there have been serious concerns about people living in refineries. Oil-producing countries, like Nigeria, have one or more refineries in different parts of the country. Nigeria currently has four refineries, while a fifth one is in the final stages of completion. Many people live around these refineries and are unaware or ignorant of the health effects living within proximity of these refineries can have on them.
What is a Refinery?
A refinery is a place where crude oil is refined into products like petrol, gas, diesel, gasoline, and so on. A lot of work goes on in a refinery to transform crude oil into useful products. While the work done in a refinery is very important to society, there are no doubts about the adverse effects it has on people and the environment at large.
Who Are At Risk?
Refinery workers are at great risk of the effects of the refinery on their health. Some of these workers perform all sorts of task, sometimes without adequate protection.
The second group of people who are exposed to the risk are those who live nearby. In cities like Warri and Port Harcourt, where there are refineries, houses and businesses are situated around them.
Health Effects of Living Near A Refinery
The first thing to note is that the air around a refinery is toxic. A lot of dangerous chemicals and contaminants, like sulfur dioxide, benzene, and lead, are released into the air during the process of refining oil. These chemicals are dangerous to the nose and the eyes. They pollute the air, making it difficult to breathe. Inhaling these toxins could also result in respiratory problems and could increase the risk of asthma attacks.
There are also spills and leakages that could occur, where some of the crude oil or refined products could find their way into the streams or other water bodies and contaminate it. It could also contaminate the soil and make it very bad for farming. Drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food can lead to serious medical emergencies.
The health effects of living near a refinery are numerous to cover. Some of these health effects are short term while others could manifest years later. Some short-term or immediate health effects include breathing difficulty, blurred vision, headaches, nose sores, skin rashes, and so on. These invisible fumes from refineries can affect many people. According to the California government, some negative health effects of living near a refinery are heightened risk of asthma, neurological damage, cardiovascular damage, cancers, birth defects, difficulty breathing, and blood disorders.
The long-term health effects of living near a refinery include cancer, liver damage, menstrual problems, bronchitis, throat infections, menstrual problems, and more. There have also been reports of women living around refineries giving birth to children with deformities or having miscarriages and stillbirths.
In one study done to investigate the adverse health impacts of living near a refinery in Jordan, they discovered that the residents living near the oil refinery industry in Jordan reported deleterious impacts on their health, such as respiratory problems, skin diseases, and poor health.
Gas flares are a sight to behold in most refineries. Some people might regard it as normal, due to the rate at which it happens, but it is not. When oil is discovered that has a lot of natural gas in it, the gas is burnt, or flared, to separate it from the oil. This process is cheaper way to get rid of the gas, but it takes a toll on the health of those who are living near the refinery. Gas flares add to the problem as toxins like soot are released in the air. Soot causes respiratory problems and also contaminates anything it touches, including water and food.
The alternative to that is for the refineries to sell the gas to companies that need it. The gas could be used for so many things, including generation power and so on.
There are a lot of downsides to residing near a refinery. Although some people try to make it look like an attraction or the selling point of living in a particular area, the reverse is the truth. If you can help it, you should not live or work anywhere near a refinery.