Polymer waste is considered harmful and over the years more attention has been paid to it. There has been less focus on non-polymer chemical wastes which are the primary cause of some terrible diseases. Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl compounds are non-polymeric wastes used in textile production, non-stick coating of cookware, clothing, cosmetics, food packaging, and fire-fighting foams, among others.
Perfluoroalkyls and polyfluoroalkyls have found their way into some water sources, the most recent being rainwater, a major source of drinking water in most developing and underdeveloped countries.
In a new report from researchers at the University of Stockholm, Sweden, and the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule, Zurich, Switzerland, led by professor of environmental organic chemistry, Ian Cousins, it has been found that in some parts of the world, especially in some arid and tropical regions, rainwater remained an important source of drinking water, but it was no longer safe to say that the environment was clean enough to produce rainwater or l water from mountain streams fed by precipitation and drinkable.
The study further noted that the discovery carries a danger of global health effects, affecting human physiology.
Cousins said: “Other researchers, including ourselves, have pointed to similar concerns related to highly persistent non-polymeric substances, but these concerns are not as obvious to the public as concerns about plastics. The relatively deep public concern about plastics is perhaps driven by the visibility of plastic waste compared to non-polymeric substances.
“Clearly, plastic pollution and pollution by highly persistent non-polymeric substances lead to similar global problems. Persistence is generally considered a less immediately dangerous property than toxicity, but it is the key factor that allows pollution problems to spiral out of control. This is because persistence allows chemicals to travel great distances, cause long-term, even lifelong exposure, and result in higher environmental levels as long as emissions continue.
The researchers advised preventive chemical management of chemicals that remain persistent in the atmosphere.
The United States Center for Disease Control has described diseases such as cancer, liver damage, decreased fertility, immune disorders and increased risk of asthma, linked to exposure to PFAs.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s PFA Health Advisory asserted that since these chemicals were developed to withstand heat, they are not biodegradable and persist for a long time in the environment. The half-life of some of these compounds is around five years in the human body.
At the ninth conference of the parties to the Stockholm convention on persistent organic pollutants, Nigeria and other countries agreed to ban perfluorooctanoic acid which is one of many chemicals in this class of “chemicals eternal” harmful to human health.
A German company specializing in market and consumer data, Statista, said that in Nigeria, some of the most common sources of drinking water are tube wells, boreholes and dug wells. Drinking water sources also change depending on the season. During the rainy season, it is much more popular to harvest rainwater.
Research has shown that less than half of the Nigerian population has access to a reliable water supply.
A research paper written by a Lecturer in the Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nigeria Nsukka, Enugu State, Kehinde Adeosun, revealed that people in rural and peri-urban areas still lack access to good source of water. In addition, rainfall fluctuation was expected due to climate variability.
The document stated that in most developing countries, including Nigeria, the level of water supply was insufficient for domestic water needs, as only 47% of the total population had access to potable water sources. quality. He also added that the current water supply coverage in Nigeria was estimated to be around 58%, representing 87 million people.
He further estimated that about half of the Nigerian population (about 100 million people) lacks access to safe drinking water supply, adding that low investment and weak policy in the water sector water were responsible for the country’s poor performance.
“Rainwater offers an opportunity to tackle water scarcity and scarcity. Some households also store rainwater for the dry season. Additionally, rainwater is inexpensive to maintain and requires minimal storage to make it available when needed,” he said.
But the increase in the concentration of dangerous chemicals in the environment can prevent the use of the cheapest and cleanest form of water without raising concerns about its adverse effects on human health. Part of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is about sustainable cities and communities that take into account a safe environment.
The United Nations body in Nigeria had previously said the industrial pollution problems were huge. Nigeria has about 5,000 registered industrial facilities and some 10,000 small industries operating illegally in residential premises. In places like Kano, Kaduna and Lagos, colourful, hot and heavy metal laden effluents, especially from the textile, tanning and paint industries, have been dumped directly into open sewers and sewers. water, constituting direct hazards to water users and biota. downstream.
Also concerning is the practice of some industrial facilities burying their obsolete chemicals and hazardous chemical waste in their backyards, threatening groundwater quality.
Experts believed that early detection with adequate measures will save the environment and invariably reduce the health implications that may arise from exposure to chemicals.
A professor of water resources and environmental engineering at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Kaduna State, Abubakar Ismail, noted that the research established the extent of the proliferation of compounds of emerging concern which were mainly products anthropogenic chemicals that are stable and harmful to human and environmental health.
He believed that a timely understanding of the dynamics of chemicals in the environment would facilitate the development of appropriate measures to manage and control their spread and possibly reverse the contamination resulting from their accumulation.
He said that although the research was not based on primary data and did not include the methods, the conclusions were however similar to other studies and the situation was of great concern, especially the aspect of the rainwater.
Ismail said treatment systems such as ultrafiltration could be used to manage surface and groundwater sources.
He said: “Soil is polluted and plants can absorb PFAs which will introduce the pollutants into the food chain. This will lead to bioaccumulation and harmful effects such as cancer. Rainwater is the main problem, if the source is atmospheric then capture methods and emission controls should work. With plastics in the oceans, this is an issue that will require global attention.
Another Professor of Environmental and Water Resources Engineering at the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, Imo State, Chidi Okereke, said a generalization cannot be made from a single study. but of a localized study to elucidate precisely the extent of the impact of the damage the chemicals could cause.
He said: “It is dangerous to generalise. We cannot conclude that the levels are high in Nigeria. The source of the chemicals must be identified because most of the textile industries that use the chemicals are not functional. There is no evidence that the pollutants are in the air or water of our own environment. Thorough research should be done first and then we can discuss how to mitigate it.
From his perspective on the matter, an expert in water and wastewater treatment at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra State, Prof. Nkeiruka Nwaiwu said that the mode of data evaluation for research would guide the conclusion to be drawn about the levels of chemical safety in our locality.
She said the various methods of rainwater harvesting were important for proper judgment and precautions on the use of chemicals.
Nwaiwu said, “We need to know where the water is coming from and that will guide our research and conclusions.”