Published On: Mon, Aug 21st, 2017

Unhealthy environment: The debate between life and death

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Minister of Health Pro. Isaac Adewole

Minister of Health Pro. Isaac Adewole

By Osaigbovo Iguobaro, Benin

Members of University of Benin community recently took time off the cacophonous agitators for or against restructuring and the dismemberment of the country which have dragged Nigeria to the abyss of nowhere, to reflect on mankind and the environment.
Throughout history, humans impacted the environment, a move that ultimately implodes the environment and could annihilate man.
This was the assertions of Professor George Edaghogho Eriyamremu at the 195th University of Benin Inaugural Lecture series.
The University don, zoned in on environmental pollutants on changes in cell biochemistry. His study has given credence to the intimate link between human diet and health. It corroborates a new World Health Organization (WHO) report, which says that an estimated 12.6 million people die each year globally from ‘unhealthy environment”, as a consequence of undisclosed pollutants in the toxicity on plants and animals consumed by man in various environments.
This accounts for one in every four casualties arose the globe. Of these, two third, or 8.2 million deaths are from non communicable diseases (NCDs) such as strokes, heart attacks, cancers and respiratory ailments.
Environmental Rights groups have already presented report of degraded habitat in the oil and gas exploration where a majority of people make their daily living. Consequently, the alleged selective implementation or non implementation of some agreements entered into by oil majors’ account for the major cause of deaths, despoliation and cessation of livelihood in most host oil Communities in Nigeria.
These wrongs were among the fundamental issues, Professor George Edaghogho Eriyamremu examined while delivering the 195th Inaugural lecture of the University of Benin titled: “Is it a myth or a shift in Culture? The Environment As a Judge”.
Ironically, the Professor of Biochemistry (Nutrition and Toxicology) who is also the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Ekehuan Campus) of the Institution, drew people’s curiosity, those eager to learn new ways a out e world of nature and the activities of man with such stunning facts that everyone came away with new understanding of hazards in the environment.
Eriyamremu, who knew how to challenge his audience, embarked on a voyage to seek answers to his research interest areas which were primarily about metals impacted by crude oil or its fractionalization.
At the start of his Lecture, the inaugural lecturer, gave a brief history of colon cancer and allayed fears of Nigerians. He, however, warned that risky behaviour and habits could cause a pandemic, a direct invitation to cancer prevalent in the Western world.
Supporting his claim that nothing justify the intake of refined foods, especially when income rises, he stated that Nigerian type of diet, despite of the changes in ‘our eating habits ‘ giving teachers dynamic imperatives of rising incomes, remain the best, because they contain less fat, less Protein; high amount of carbonhydrate and fibre, which ‘is the best suited to us’.
“It is generally accepted that an acidified micro flora, protests the colon from cancer.
“The type of Nigerian diet which are formatted in our studies, was rich in carbonhydrate and dietary fibre. It was shown to produce acetate propionate and butyrate which increases the potential of hydrogen (ph) of the colon. This world protect the colon from developing tumors, as against the Western-like diet which acidifies the colon, unlike the Nigerian diet”, he said.
Speaking on steps taken so far before he arrived at his conclusion, Professor Eriyamremu, said cadmium is an environmental toxic whose major route to human is through contamination through drinking water and inhaling Cigarette smoke.
He cited a plethora of authorities in the field of Biochemistry including a renowned Researcher, Paracelsus (1493-1541), which states that “All substances are poisonous and nothing is without poison”.
He further argued that plants can accumulate metals which can become harmful later and over they find their way to human diets, resulting in Secondary exposure and diseases which medical experts may scramble to find a way to fix in the future.
Continuing his proposing, he said: “with that view, we measured the quantity of cadmium and lead in some commonly consumed vegetables in Nigerian diets. We measured this metals in bitter leaf (vernonia amygdalina), water leaf (Talinium Triangulare), Spinach (Amaranthus hybridus) and Pumpkin leaf (Telfaria accidentalis), locally called Ugu, obtained from local market in Ekiadolor (Edo state), Ekpan, Forcados both in Delta state and Aladja in Kogi state”.
He informed his audience that the sites were carefully selected because of the activities that go on in the places and for avoidance of doubt, , according to him, Forcados is where we have one of our major crude terminals in the Delta state and Aladja houses the defunct Steel Company, while Ekpan is the ever bubbling Warri community in Delta state.
According to him, the quantity of metals in vegetables were higher in Ekpan, Forcados and Aladja compared to Ekiadolor. However, the quantity of metals in the vegetables were within safe limits, except for “lead poison levels” fom Ekpan and Forcados” during his research in 2005.
One thing that staff, students and lecturers which excited the ears of outdoor audience alike, Professor Eriyamremu’s submission on the health risk of eating cadmium-laden infested food and catfish head, which have become a common delicacy at restaurants and bars in Nigeria.
His concern was that “giving the increasing suspicion of environmental pollution from industrialization, there may be environmental cadmium toxicity”.
In many places, a fact that stunned his audience who maintained a studied silence, throughout the lecture period.
The Inaugural lecturer in his intellectual depth, sent a chilling reminder about the the lukewarm attitude of relevant agencies of government in the Country towards health and safety,a fact, which resonated with everyone present.
The scale o he problem is daunting, he said while recalling the humming factories in Iganmu, Ilupeju and Agbara and others which have been a big driver of support for the nation’s economy with extensive mercantile outlets. Thus, it is only natural that the streets must take the spillover, which disperses further environmental hazards.
In appreciating the day’s event, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Benin, Professor Faraday Orumwense remarked that the University has redoubled its commitment to achieve its set goals in learning and Research.
He is of the view that modalities have been put in place that will protect the Institution from being seeped into the rot of society by wading off challenges that are capable of causing the ivory tower to lapse into academic irrelevance.
He urged all academics to fulfill their Inaugural Lecture delivery obligation as any Professor who was yet to deliver his or her Inaugural lecture, is indebted to the University.
Professor George Edaghogho has fulfilled that obligation and paid back the debt of gratitude in a very large measure through his query – “Is it a myth or Culture? The Environment As a Judge”.

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