THE FUMES OF DEATH

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There is need for more enlightenment campaign on the use of generators

The rising death toll through carbon monoxide poisoning across the country can be attributed to the fact that most Nigerians generate their own energy, but some without the necessary precautions. Yet, as we have repeatedly warned, exhaust from power generating sets contains carbon monoxide, a dangerous invisible and colourless gas. When inhaled, the tell–tale signs on the victim are dizziness, nausea, headache, even confusion – symptoms mistakenly attributed to too much alcohol or sun; or something else. And it has led to far too many fatalities in recent years.

That there is need to enlighten the public more on the use of generators is an understatement. Just two weeks ago, a family of six in Igboetche community, Etche Local Government Area of Rivers State lost their lives to generator fumes. It was learnt that the family had put on the generator and left it in the bathroom before going to bed. The only survivor, a 13-year-old later died in the hospital. Two months earlier in Egor Local Government Area of Edo State, another family of six was similarly wiped out after inhaling generator fumes all night.

Reports of death through generator-related accidents have indeed become a daily staple in Nigeria. That is because there is hardly a home, particularly in urban areas, without a generating set. Despite the noise and pollution they emit, they provide “emergency” power for lights, fans, fridges so that stored food items don’t get bad, and to television, video games, and such alike. Perhaps because nobody seems to be paying attention, it is difficult to put a figure to the number of Nigerians that has died as a result of generator fumes. What makes it even more tragic is that in most cases, it is the entire family that is wiped out.

The carbon monoxide fumes emitted by generators are fatal and most often, the victims, who are almost always asleep, never realise the danger until it is too late. Carbon monoxide gas, when inhaled, replaces oxygen in the body tissues and that prevents blood from carrying out its functions, including transporting oxygen around the body, thus leading to death. Even for those who survive, inhaling such fumes on a continual basis has long-term hazards, especially since it is a possible cause of lung cancer and heart disease.

That then explains why experts advise people “to never run a generator indoors or in any area where ventilation is limited and people or animals are present.” In effect, it is always safer to put the generator outside, and away from a window, and never in an enclosed situation. Indeed, most of the deaths recorded were as a result of unsafe generator use in badly ventilated environments.

Therefore, we feel the general public should be adequately enlightened on the danger of using generators, and how they can be safely used, mostly at homes. This should be the responsibility of the health and environment authorities at both the federal and state levels. By so doing, we will be able to save our people from painful but cheap deaths.