I AM still searching for details of the radio news that Lagos State government has detoxified 7,000 school children of lead toxicity or poisoning. I hope it was no fluke news because everywhere I have combed is talking only of the lead mining poisoning in JIGAWA State. Whatever the Lagos news is, any thought of it took my thoughts back to the 1980s when The Guardian newspaper was in full prime, breaking news and setting social agenda on many fronts. Onukaba Adinoyi – Ojo would inform us that 53 suitcases (of money) were smuggled past the supposed eagle eyes of customs officials during a currency change.
Military President Ibrahim Babangida would arrive in Lagos in the morning from Abuja on the day he planned to surprise Nigerians, especially the politicians, with the formation by the government of two political parties out of more than 30 political associations, only to find that the wind had been taken out of the sail of his national broadcast later that evening.
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo would be bitter that his secret bid for the Secretary General of the United Nations was exposed.
The Guardian did not fail to track the evolution of Nigeria from a drug transit nation to that of a nation of drug users, naming the blind spots in Lagos and painting pictures of the forces behind the scene. The Guardian would publish a report which was true in all material particulars and embarrassed the Muhammadu Buhari/ Tunde Idiagbon Military government which had promulgated a decree that any embarrassing story, however true, was a journalism sin punishable with at least one year imprisonment. As the government proved to the judge that the report embarrassed it, even though it was true, two of the three newsroom executives, Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor were sent to jail. Femi Kusa, this writer, then Assistant Editor, went off the hook after his detention. The court, like the government, wanted to know author of the “offending” report. As journalists, we protected the source of the information, a female reporter in the newsroom, whose exposure would have led to the arrest of a military general, and, perhaps, his execution by that blood –thirsty regime.
I remembered those hey days of (The Guardian) sometime in June or early July this year when I ran into a radio interview of the present News Editor of the Guardian, and of a young woman who is in charge of DIGITAL GUARDIAN, the internet edition of the physical newspaper. The interview was in respect of 35 years of The Guardian on the news stand. The interviewer must have experienced The Guardian of those days, as he persistently referred to that era of the newspaper. I, too, remembered staffers such as Goddy Nnadi, Taiwo Obe, Niyi Obaremi, Wole Agunbiade, Pius isiekwene, Mrs. Harriet Lawrence, Ted Iwere, Gbenga Omotosho, Doyin Mahmoud, Jullyett Ukabiala, Ayogu Eze (later a Senator of a federal republic), Amma Ogan, Felix Abugu, Mike Asuguo, Etim Etim, etim Imisim, Sonny Abiandu, Razak Adedigba, Nduka Irabor, Tunde Thompson, Ben Tomoloju, Tommy Odemwigie, Dayo Oluyemi, Adigun Agbaje (Now Vice-chancellor of the university of Ibadan), Lanre Idowu (now of diamond award for media excellence, dame), and our terrific Sport Editor, Sonny Ojeagbase, who is now into publishing, Jide Ogundele, Paul Okunlola, Michael Obi. Beyond that, the Lagos lead poisoning news led my thoughts back to the days of SEUN OGUNSEITAN as Assistant Science Editor of The Gaurdian. He broke the KOKO TOXIC WASTE DUMP story. There was a company somewhere in Europe that could not afford the cost of detoxifying waste products of its industrial processes. There was a Nigerian in that country who was in need of money and knew about the dangers to health and life of radioactive waste materials. He obtained money from this company, hired a ship, loaded many drums of this toxic waste on board and, with them, headed for a stupid, money-hungry country called Nigeria. He beat all customs checks and dumped the waste in a farmland in KOKO TOWN. Seun Ogunseitan learned about this havoc and risked his life with exposure to these wastes. His report spanked public indignation and investigation, the outcome of which probably is yet to be heard.
Where I am heading is another terrific report Seun Ogunseitan wrote many times which did not attract the deserved public attention at that time, and, perhaps, even now. He discovered a secret government report that the underground water supply in IJESHA area of Lagos was polluted by heavy metals, in some areas tens of thousands of times above the safety levels of these heavy metals in drinking water. The reports informed us as well that it was doubtful if any water works in Nigeria had the capacity to remove heavy metals from drinking waters. The report informed us as well that it was doubtful if an water-work in Nigeria had the capacity to remove heavy metals from drinking water. These metals included Lead, Mercury, and Cadmium e.t.c. They damage the brain and nerves and the various organs, may cause cancers and death from degenerative diseases. Those reports wondered if there has no correlation between the growing rate of breast cancer and prostate cancer, for example, and exposure to heavy metals in air, water and food crops. No public official in Lagos State or anywhere in Nigeria answered these questions at that time. Even our medical doctors who were best positioned to do so only kept asking women to check their breast periodically. “If they became cancerous, the solution was chemotherapy or surgery to remove the breasts, and death. It was about that time that my paths and those of Shakirat Adeoti met. She was a 33 year –old microbiology graduate of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, who was stricken with bleeding cancer in both breasts, the second daughter in a family to go down with breast cancer. As for men, their fortune of survival in a prostate cancer surgery was often put at 50/50.
Then, surprisingly, out of the blue a few years ago, Lagos State officials announced that the atmosphere and air in some industrial areas of Lagos had been polluted by toxic waste and heavy metals. A short while later, the news came up again that underground water in some local government areas had been found polluted by heavy metals and toxic substances.
The implications of this to health should be better appreciated when it is realized that the poor in Lagos city or mega city rely heavily on “PURE WATER” that is sachet waters for their drinking and cooking needs. Pure water is made from bore holes which obtain water from polluted underground water sources. We may need to investigate how many producers of “pure water” remove heavy metals from the water they sell. There is a particular brand I have learned to avoid. It always tests not just stale from, say, over storage, or bad from over-chlorination, but metallic and decomposing. I have phoned the producers about two times, politely asking them to keep an eye on quality control, and, each time, my call was appreciated with a promise to do that. But as the problem has lingered, I suspect the underground water source has problems. The plant is located near a canal into which all sorts of things are dumped. If you wonder why I did not shift to bottle water, I would tell you most, if not all of these bottles, are substandard, leach dioxin and other cancer causing substances into the water and, in any case, test acidic. Only Lacena water, so far, passes the alkaline water test.
Sources of Exposure
Before I come to the symptoms of heavy metal poisoning, and of how every-one can help to detoxify himself or herself since the government cannot detoxify every-one, I would like to mention some ways in which Lagos residents are contracting cancer or are killing themselves instalmentally every day. A viable newspaper, radio station or television station can help out with this with a simple investigation at Oshodi LAG BUS terminal every peak hour in the evenings. This is just a sample area test. These buses are heading for Agege, Iyana-Ipaja, Abule – Egba and Sango, among a few routes. They are all old and spewing smoke. Ignorantly, no one covers his or her nose or steps away, even when the drivers rev the engines. Inside the smoke is Lead and other heavy metals. There is, also, Carbon monoxide.
There have been reports lately of whole families dying overnight in exposure to electricity generator smoke or coal pot fire smoke. Inhalation of Carbon dioxide or Carbon-Monoxide reduces the oxygen content of the blood. When oxygen supply runs shorts, the cells are more or less suffocated or strangled, weaken or degenerated. In other to survive, the change from OXIDATIVE (Oxygen – using life) to FERMENTATIVE (non-oxygen dependent) life. Fermentative life is CANCER. And that’s why cancer rapidly spread. The cancerous cells appear to be telling oxidative but suffering cells that “hay, look here, we are better off now without oxygen, join us”. When carbon monoxide in particular mixes with the blood, it converts the oxygen carrying haemoglobin Oxy-haemoglobin, to carboxyl-haemoglobin, which does not carry oxygen. Gradually, an affected person becomes weak and weak, with pains (cries of dying cells) all over the body. The doctor may prescribe pain relievers without getting to the bottom of the story. A more experienced physician will study the lifestyle of this patient for oxygen deprivation, check if black spots are already appearing on the tongue, look out for microbial overload since germs do well in oxygen deprived environment. Infact, cancer treatment abroad has moved away from giving the patient OXYGEN TABLETS or LIQUID DRINKS, or the HYPERBARIC OXYGEN CHAMBER treatment to transfusion of OZONE into the blood stream under regulated conditions. American doctors who run this protocol recently charged a Nigerian doctor about $10,000 dollars just to observe them at work.
Think of the traffic jams. Everyone in cars or buses is inhaling smokes. Visit Lagos markets with their narrow passages. What do you observe? During power outage, almost every-one puts a small electricity generator in front of his or her shop to keep business going and money rolling in.
One shop is polluting another. Even in homes, you may be unlucky if your bedroom is close to where your neighbor in the next building is running an electricity generator. Many cars are parked in some compounds. The engines may be cold in the mornings. Firing these engines to get them to start generates smokes. Residential houses or offices overlooking a high way are not safe either.
Now, think about this. Cabbage is becoming popular again. It is reported to be one of the food crops with a high Glutathione content. Glutathione is one of those basic antioxidants which the body produces to fight health insults and injuries which threaten life. But only the cabbage grown on organic soil is healthy. For cabbage has a high affinity for Lead. In some projects to detoxify former dump sites which were to be converted to industrial or residential neighbor-hoods, cabbage has been cultivated for many seasons. Each harvest shows very high Lead uptake. Only when the uptake has become infinitesimally low is the land considered safe. Now, look at the Lagos State University (LASU) corridor on Iba Road and Ojoo Road. Between the fence (perimeter wall) and the road is an expanse of land which some hand working but ignorant Nigerian have converted for the cultivation of cucumber, cabbage and other vegetables. Traffic in this corridor is heavy; standing still sometimes lead laden exhaunt smoke rises and settles on the crops and soil. Rain washes it down the soil, where the root takes it up. No government department checks such vegetables for heavy metal toxicity before they are sold, or advises consumption of such vegetables may be dangerous to health.
Think about these as well…. As children, we learned to write with lead pencils. Children eat lead pencils. Some women scrape their eyebrows and replace them with pencil – lines. The eye-brow prevents sweat from falling into the eye. The eye liner, which Yoruba women call Tiro is lead.
Sweat may wash it into the eye lid. Dr. Edward Kondroit, an ophthalmologist in the United State for more than 25 years, says he stopped performing surgeries to remove eye lens cataract after the publication of a report which suggested that laser surgeries and the scapel caused deteriorations elsewhere in the eye about five years after. It was intriguing to him that lead was found to be a cause of many cataracts. So, he developed a bio-chemic eye drop named CINERARIA which neutralizes lead poisoning in the eye and breaks cataracts. He recommends as well, a similar product made by COLLEGE MEDICINE and called OCCULMED, a bunch of anti-oxidant bio-chemic substances in an eye drop.
I wish to give accolades once more to the Commissioner for Environment in Lagos State. Sometime last year, the neighbor-hood of the Lagos Abattoir at Oko-Oba became a nuisance to its neighbours about five kilometers radius distant. Sellers of cow skin (ponmo in Yoruba, Ikanda in Igbo) were curing cow skin with bonfires of used tyres. The fire spewed into the atmosphere gasses which contain lead, cadmium, mercury, Arsenic and other dangerous elements.
No one could sleep well. Many people were coughing. Going home after work hours became a nightmare. This column featured the nightmare under the title LAGOS ABATOIR… PURVEYOR OF DISEASE AND DEATH. The Commissioner suspended the activities of these people within 24 hours!
Heavy metal poisoning may come, also, from canned foods and drinks, explosure to leaded house or industrial paint, furniture polish, dinner plate, dish- washing soaps. Many of us applaud earthenware pots over the Aluminum cookware which is dangerous to health. But earthenware may also have lead in them. Maybe this informed an old practice in which some native women place certain medicinal leaves at the base of these pots before cooking in them. It is possible this is done to prevent overheating and burns, which are not good for health. We know Aluminum damages brain cells, and my cause Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimers. But the top grade non-stick, non-leach pots which may cost come as cheap as N60, 000 a-piece is not the friend of many pockets. Exposure to dangerous metals and chemical substances may come as well from the mattress we sleep on. The foam mattress is made with many chemicals in tow. The producers cover it up with some decorative fabric. It is up to the user to wall up these chemical so the chemicals are not inhaled. That is a job for heavy duty blankets. These are luxuries for many people. Any wonder children who sleep on these unprotected foam mattresses may develop such breathing problems as sinusitis, bronchitis and asthma. There are children who hawk in traffic jam or slowly moving traffic. Or children who, after school hours, stay with their mothers who trade by the roadside oblivious of the danger of traffic fumes to their health and their children. At the Oshodi Interchange, I feel sorry for babies strapped to their mother’s backs. As their mother navigate human and vehicular traffic. These children are being poisoned and brain damaged. Someday, so well damaged with lead in the blood exceeding three microgrammes/deciliter of blood permitted in some environment conscious countries, these children may suffer from learning disabilities, poor memory, nervous breakdown, short attention spans, hyperactivity, convulsion, low immunity, inflammation of organs, bone weakness, even cancer, and other ailments that are thought not to be the portion of children. Anyone who has been trading the cancer strikes in Nigeria will know children are increasingly becoming victims. I have witnessed no fewer than five children below 10 years die of cancer at the Lagos University teaching Hospital (Lagos). I have seen female university undergraduates die of breast and colorectal cancer. I have seen men in their forties develop prostate gland problems. I have heard stories told by professional healers that some prostate glands habour heavy metals in them. If this is true, it should make some sense, as some physicians suggest that the treatment of prostate gland problems should begin not with chemotherapy and surgery, but with detoxification nurture and toning.
Where is Seun Ogunseitan? I ask again. I know he is a man of many parts. He has, in my view, an unfinished business in the health sector which he began as The Guardian newspaper in the 1980s, working with other star minds like himself to produce a great newspaper which set many a social or public sector agenda that were almost 35 long years ahead of their time.
The government of Lagos state, especially under Governor Akinwunmi Ambode is doing everything humanly possible to clear the jungle of poisons that overpopulation has made Lagos to become. The government cannot do this job alone. As the Yoruba would say OMI PO JU OKA (water pass garri). We need citizen groups to generate public awareness about the dangers our environment has become. Through the social media, we can report smoking vehicles to the authorities. We can purchase testing kits to test the PURE WATER we buy and report our fears to NAFDAC. We can report Marijuana blind spots to the NDLEA. Seun Ogunseitan reported the KOKO WASTE DUMP. We can report factories all around us who are damaging the environment and creating a jungle of poisons in our dear, dear Lagos.