App Detects Port Harcourt Air is Contaminated With PM2.5 From Soot, Could Lead to Premature Death

Port Harcourt Soot

The pollution of the air in Port Harcourt, River state has been detected as “unsafe” by a global app used to detect how safe the air is at any location in the world.

The app also indicated that the air in the city contains a dangerous substance known as PM2.5, which can cause cancer and lead to premature death.

AirVisual Screenshot of Port Harcourt AQI
AirVisual Screenshot of Port Harcourt AQI

Air Visuals‘, is a famous app used to detect the state of the air at any location in the world. When used to detect that of Port Harcourt city, it returned a rather negative result stating that the city has an Air Quality Index of 190 (AQI), is unsafe and contaminated with PM2.5, a deadly pollutant capable of causing cancer, respiratory illnesses and can lead to premature death.

Air Quality Index Classifications
Air Quality Index Classifications

The air in a city is rated safe when it has an Air Quality Index between 0 t0 50, rated moderate when it has an AQI between 51 to 100, rated unhealthy for sensitive groups when it has an AQI of between 101 to 150, rated unhealthy when its AQI stands between 151 to 200, very unhealthy when it stands between 201 to 300 and declared hazardous when it is above 300. Port Harcourt has an AQI of 190 meaning it is unhealthy to live in.

What is PM2.5

PM2.5 are atmospheric particulate matter (PM) that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which is about 3% the diameter of a human hair.

PM2.5 Size
PM2.5 Size

Commonly written as PM2.5, particles in this category are so small that they can only be detected with an electron microscope. They are even smaller than their counterparts PM10, which are particles that are 10 micrometres or less, and are also called fine particles.

 

Sources of PM2.5

Likely sources are combustion resulting from power plants, smoke and soot from wildfires and waste burning, vehicular emission and industrial processes involving chemical reactions between gases (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds)

Why Are PM2.5 Dangerous

Since they are so small and light, fine particles tend to stay longer in the air than heavier particles. This increases the chances of humans and animals inhaling them into the bodies. Owing to their minute size, particles smaller than 2.5 micrometres are able to bypass the nose and throat and penetrate deep into the lungs and some may even enter the circulatory system.

Studies have found a close link between exposure to fine particles and premature death from heart and lung disease. Fine particles are also known to trigger or worsen chronic diseases such as asthma, heart attack, bronchitis and other respiratory problems.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggests that long-term exposure to PM2.5 may lead to plaque deposits in arteries, causing vascular inflammation and a hardening of the arteries which can eventually lead to heart attack and stroke. Scientists in the study estimated that for every 10 micrograms per cubic meter (μg/m3) increase in fine particulate air pollution, there is an associated 4%, 6% and 8% increased the risk of all-cause, cardiopulmonary and lung cancer mortality, respectively.

An association between mothers’ exposure to fine particles and birth defects has also been established by several reports.

Children, older adults and those who are suffering from lung and/or heart disease are especially vulnerable to the adverse effects of fine particles in the air and should take special precautions when ambient PM2.5 crosses unhealthy levels.

Short-Term Health Effects

What PM2.5 does to the human body
What PM2.5 does to the human body

short-term effects of the accumulation of PM2.5 in the human system include

  • irritation of the eyes, throat and nose
  • irregular heartbeats
  • Asthma attacks
  • Coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath

Long-Term Effects

respiratory illnesses such as bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, lung tissue damage, cancer, heart attack and can also lead to premature death.

Present of Soot In the Port Harcourt Air

soot man
Resident shows off soot stains on his hands. Image credit: Getty Images

For over a year now, residents have noticed the presence of soot in the atmosphere in Port Harcourt city. Despite many complaints on the matter including an open protest, the government has remained adamant about the situation.

The causes of this pollution is a well-known fact as highlighted in our earlier article on the subject published under WIRED! SPECIAL edition.

black_soot_in_port_Harcourt
Residents protesting against the presence of soot in the atmosphere in Port Harcourt

There have been reported cases of ill-health resulting from the inhalation of this soot-infected air in the city on the internet. Residents have posted photos and videos of themselves being admitted for respiratory-related illnesses resulting from breathing in polluted air.  With a population of over 3million people in Port Harcourt and over 5 million combined when the rural areas are taken into accounts, the government seems unperturbed that the lives of about 5 million citizens are threatened by an avoidable health hazard.

How to Remain Safe With PM2.5 in The Air

Steps on how to stay safe are outlined in this article we published earlier. Read here!

 

Joseph Igbenedion

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