The fumes of death – Thisday

There is need for an enlightenment campaign on dangers posed by generators  

The Obajana area of Kogi State was recently thrown into mourning following the discovery of the decomposing bodies of a man, his wife and two children at their residence. The family of four was suspected to have been killed by fumes from a power generator mounted inside the house. A week earlier in Benin, three persons were reported to have died as a result of inhaling generator fumes. The deceased, two females and one male, were found dead by the occupants of the adjoining flat. Last month also, decomposing bodies of a man, wife and their four children were found in their apartment in Rumuosi community in Rivers State.

Reports of death through generator-related accidents have indeed become a daily staple in Nigeria. That was 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, television to video games.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 rising death toll through carbon monoxide poisoning can be attributed to the fact that most Nigerians generate their own energy, but some without the necessary precautions. As we have repeatedly warned, exhaust from power generating sets contains carbon monoxide, a dangerous invisible, odourless 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.

The 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. Even for those who are alive, inhaling such fumes on a continual basis also has long-term hazards, especially since it is a possible cause of lung cancer. Indeed, health experts have also warned that these fumes can be deadly because carbon monoxide which is a major gas in generator fumes, 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. Besides, exposure to moderate and high levels of carbon monoxide over a long period of time has been linked with an increased risk of heart disease. This could also lead to a shorter life span.

That perhaps 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. We feel the general public should be adequately enlightened on the danger posed by generators, and how they can be safely used, mostly at homes.

 

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