Recently, in Nigeria, there has been a lot said about soot, as people are trying to understand what it is. A place like Port Harcourt, the capital city of Rivers State, is currently dealing with the problem of soot. The air around the city is black and hazy, filled with soot. Like dust, soot settles on surfaces like roofs, cars, clothes, and so on. People also inhale soot, which is very dangerous.
The issue of soot has become a national emergency due to the adverse health effects it has on people who come in contact with it. This has led to the government taking steps to curb the spread of soot and even try to stop it altogether. But what is soot? Why is it dangerous? What are the health effects of soot? This is what we would be looking at today.
What Is Soot?
Soot is a pollutant. It consists of tiny carbon particles, which are byproducts of incomplete burning of organic materials, especially fossil fuels, wood, coal, plastic and all more. Soot occurs whenever something is burning, such as a bush, a house, or even when you cook with a kerosene stove or firewood. It is that black cloud you see that rises over the fire.
Soot gets into the air, mixes with it, and spoils the quality of the air. Depending on the scale of the fire or the material being burnt, the soot could linger in the air for a few minutes, hours, or even days.
What Causes Soot?
As we noted above, soot occurs whenever something organic is being burnt. This includes burning fossil fuels, exhaust fumes from cars and generators, burning coal, burning wood, and so on. Having a chimney or fireplace, using a kerosene stove to cook, or using candles, could cause soot to form in your home.
In the case of Port Harcourt, the soot in the city is caused by illegal refineries, which use fire for the refining process. Not only that, but in an attempt to curb the activities of these illegal refineries, security operatives, upon discovery, sometimes set these illegal refineries on fire as well as the oil they have refined.
Environmental Effect of Soot
Soot can have such a negative impact on the environment. The fact that it blackens the air and makes everywhere look hazy, is a concern by itself. When that happens, visibility could become very difficult, even during the day. When soot settles, it can land anywhere. This makes the environment very dirty. Houses, trees, trees, cars, and everything outside, and even inside, would be dirtied by the soot. Soot could get into the water supply and pollute it. Now, what are the health effects of black soot?
Health Effects Of Soot
Soot is responsible for a lot of health complications. According to a report, more than 22,000 people in Rivers received medical care for conditions caused by soot. Soot can enter the body in different ways, including through inhaling, ingestion, through the eyes, and so on.
Soot makes breathing difficult and triggers asthma attacks. For example, in the US, soot is responsible for more than 300,000 cases of asthma every year. It also leads to other respiratory problems like bronchitis, influenza, chronic cough, and so on. Long-term Inhalation of soot could also damage the lungs, leading to pneumoconiosis, which is a kind of lung disease. Being exposed to soot could also lead to death.
According to a 2017 study on the health impacts of soot in Port Harcourt, soot can cause complications to the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, especially in people with preexisting medical conditions.
Another study has linked exposure to soot increase the risk of cancer. The adverse health effects of black soot has also been said to be severe on children and young adults.
How To Protect Yourself From Soot
You can protect yourself from soot by wearing face masks and other safety gadgets, to prevent yourself from inhaling it.
You can also avoid the indiscriminate burning of bushes, trees, and other organic matter. Rather than burn refuse, you can dispose of it the proper way. If you can, you should replace your kerosene or firewood stove with a gas cooker.
If you have big generators, you can fit catalytic converters and filters on the exhaust to reduce the rate of emission.