I read an interesting piece of article on the WSJ (29th December 2010) captioned: EPA warns of PCB risk in schools and feel duty bound to share the content of the article with readers on my blog. It made me feel sad on the way environmental issues are attended to by our leaders in Nigeria.
It is disheartening to note that despite the enormous environmental challenges that still exists, our leaders still doesn’t know; the few ones that knows little about those challenges often turn blind eyes to them.
Most of our leaders believe that environmentalism is something to do with fight against climate change or about the looks of soil and water surrounding them. No, there is more to that; it is a question of life and death.
In Nigeria, the gap between rich and poor keeps widening and the middle class have been wiped out. The affluent class live in clean safe environments and the poor leave in areas surrounded by landfills and incinerators, and often use polluted water for their washings, cooking etc, getting more exposed to unclean environments and its associated ill hazards……..a typical example of ‘environmental injustice’.
I would first like to briefly say something on PCBs before I discuss the content of the published WSJ article.
PCBs are man-made chemicals which came into production in 1929. They are highly non-reactive and resistant to acids and bases as well as to heat thus persists in the environment.
It is these unique properties that gave them edge and thus widely in use as an insulating material in electric equipment (eg transformers and capacitors), in heat transfer fluids, in lubricants and wide range of products such as plasticizers, paints, surface coatings, inks, adhesives, flame retardants, and carbonless duplicating paper.
PCB pollution could arise from landfills (containing transformers, capacitors, other PCB wastes etc releasing PCBs into the air) or incineration of municipal waste (producing dangerous bi-products, such as hydrogen chloride and dioxins.
PCBs are insoluble in water, but readily soluble in fats another way of how PCBs can build up in animal fat and enter our food chain. It can be measured in biological (human serum, milk, fatty tissue, animal tissues, fish and other dairy products) and non-biological (air, drinking water, soil, sediment, solid waste) samples.
PCBs pollute the environment and have strong carcinogenic potentials in humans. It directly or indirectly accumulates in our body and adversely affect our immune and reproductive systems and can cause different types of cancers. It is because of these and many other adverse effects of PCBs that in 1970 through 80′s their use has been banned or severely restricted in many countries.
In the WSJ article, it was reported that the U.S. authorities’ urges schools built before 1979 across the U.S.A. to replace the electrical components in older light fixtures to reduce the threat of contamination from potentially cancer-causing chemicals, the PCBs (poly chlorinated bisphenyls).
This is an example of a country where democracy is working and the leaders have feelings of their citizens at heart.
The article went further to say that this was a non binding recommendations released by the agency and it urges schools to replace electrical components in the light fixtures with a view to prevent escape of PCBs into the air which if they persist over time could present health concerns. This decision, which aims to primarily ensure the safety of students and their lecturers, was taken after the EPA run a study of three schools in the New York City which revealed that many fixtures in the schools were leaking PCBs.
According to the EPA officials, the cost of this project in about 800 buildings across the city could be as high as $1 billion.
I hope our leaders in Nigeria would learn from this and know that leadership (especially in a democratic dispensation) is meant to serve the people and not the reverse.
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