Save us from lead poisoning, Ogun GRA residents cry out
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Those that take up residence in Government Reserved Areas (GRAs), do so with the intention of enjoying some serenity, and a breathe of fresh air away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
These, residents of Ota GRA, in Ogun State, enjoyed for over 20 years until last year when a strange pall of smoke, and constant noise shattered the peace of the area.Now, the residents made up of mainly students and elderly people, are pointing accusing fingers at a battery recycling company- Lloyds Industry Ltd, for the deadly emission and the loss of peace. They are consequently appealing to the state government to intervene and save them from the imminent life-threatening condition.
According to them, the factory is located in a residential area playing host to about 100, 000 people, and directly opposite a polytechnic- All Over Polytechnic, where over 1,000 students attend lectures. Also within the neighbourhood are primary and secondary schools such as Omolabake Nursery and Primary Schools, Mother’s Joy Nursery, Primary School and college, Ota, Liberty Children’s School, St Michaels Schools, among others.
The factory, which is said to be into recycling of used car batteries, which is known to contain lead, a deadly compound that can kill, or damage body organs according to the World Health Organisation.Some of the residents, told The Guardian that not long after they started inhaling the smoke from the firm, many of them started falling sick, developing cough and other respiratory ailments.
The residents said they got very worried last month, when the family of Mr. and Mrs. Tony Ojo, lost their eight-month-old baby due to a respiratory problem. Not long after that, David Babalola, another resident whose house is at the back of the company said he almost lost his two-month-old baby to a respiratory problem.
“She suddenly experienced difficulty breathing. We thought it was an injection problem, but when we went to Covenant University Hospital, the doctor said the baby inhaled a chemical, which affected her. So now I have taken my family away from there,” said Babalola.The residents are certain that these dire health challenges are as a result of the toxic gas and lead emitted by the firm.
A resident, Chief Ogulade, a retired chartered accountant said the smoke from the industry has created a big health problem for them.“I am a resident of Olademi Close, GRA, Ota, I have lived here in the last 37 years. For over a year now, an Indian Company called Lloyd’s Industry has created a big health problem for us. When you inhale the emission from their factory, you start coughing. Those that live very close to the factory no longer open their windows,” he said.
In an attempt to solve this challenge, the Secretary of Ota GRA Community, Pastor Joshua Taiwo, and Isreal Ideogun, said they have been to Ado-Odo Local Council and the Ministry of Environment in Abeokuta to lay their complaint.
“We were promised that the situation will be taken care of, but for the past six months, nothing has been done,” they said.Another resident, Dr. Segun Osifeso, said he had to travel to Dubai to treat himself from the cough and respiratory infection as a result of the pollution.
“I live on Segun Osifeso Avenue, GRA, and we have been enjoying some peace here for the past 40 years until the recent intrusion by this steel company. This factory is so close to us that when they start melting their steel and metals, everywhere will be filled with so much smoke, which has affected our health. Many of us here are retired and elderly people who have come here to enjoy some fresh air, but this is no longer possible. Before, we never heard heavy noise around here, but now, all that have changed. All of a sudden you will hear a loud bang and their transformer is blown. The sound of their power generating set is always disturbing us, causing so much noise,” he said.
Clement Agbede, an engineer adds that his plight is much more severe as he shares a common boundary with the factory. He said upon moving into the GRA: “They brought down the houses around mine, and erected their own structure. The smoke is so much around my house that we no longer open the windows. My wife is always coughing. We no longer sleep peacefully because of the constant noise, there is no more fresh air, we are going through hell.”
Leye Oso, another engineer, who is over 70 years old, said smoke from the industry has aggravated his health condition and worsened the pneumonia, which plagues him. A chemical engineer, Olusegun Ogunseye, described the emission from the factory as “very dangerous.” “If you inhale carbon monoxide more than three particles per million (PPM), you are bound to die,” he said.
According to him, the factory has not installed the necessary device for reducing the level of toxicity of the gases it emits.Paul Ezeafulukwe, another expert stresses the compelling need for the government to look into the company’s activities, including the recycling of batteries, adding that the endeavour is illegal because of the lead emission.
“The office of the National Security Adviser is the only office that licences people to produce or export lead. They don’t have a license to produce lead, yet they do that. Lead goes deep down inside the water so if you take a sample of the wastewater or air around there, you will notice heavy lead particles. Again, this is a densely populated area with many children. Lead gas causes brain damage to children,” he said.
Speaking on behalf of the schools, rector of All-over Central Polytechnic, Kunle Adewale, said the factory has no regard for human life. “This is just the bane of corruption, because in a sane society, government would not have permitted this kind of thing to exist for a day. The effect of the emission may not be seen now, but I believe we are dying gradually, so government should intervene now,” he appealed.
Adewale, who also complained about the bad shape of the road, blamed the factory for it saying, “the road has been damaged by the factory’s heavy equipment. They have pumping machine that pump water from their company to the road and this is why the road is water logged.”
Reacting to these allegations, one of the directors of the firm, who simply identified himself as Mr. Sing, admitted that his company actually recycles lead battery, but added that the batteries are 100 per cent dry, with no health effect. He said; “If the smoke is poisonous. I would have died since I and my staff are living in the factory and inhaling the smoke. The batteries are completely dry 100 per cent. I have better pollution control in my factory than other factories.”The firm’s personnel manager, Tokunbo Fadiyi, corroborated Singh’s claim saying the company complies with conditions set by Ogun State Environmental Protection Agency (OGEPA).
“According to their rule, whatever battery you are working with must be under a roof; should not be exposed so that it doesn’t have contact with the outside environment. We also recycle aluminium, which is from aluminium scrap, engine block, water can. All these do not produce smell, but engine block has some oil so when it is burnt, it produces some smoke. There is nothing toxic in it,” he said.
According to him, the company also has an effluent treatment plant, which contributes to its safety measures.On the alleged soaring noise level, he said the firm does not generate any abnormal noise, except the one generated during operation, which is not abnormal. He added that the state Environment Commissioner sent a delegate to observe the activities of the company after which the firm was certified safe.
On the road he said: “We have contributed some money and commissioned some people to start work on the road.Explaining the effects of lead on the human body, a consultant public health physician, Dr. Olalekan Makinde, said lead is a heavy metal, which is capable of killing.
“It can affect the nervous system; every part of the body can be affected; the bloodstream, the brain and kidney. For children, it can affect their brain and IQ level. It can get stored in the teeth, bone, and when it accumulates over a long period it can wilt the bone. If a pregnant woman inhales it, it can cause deformity of her baby or abortion. Other gases such as carbon monoxide are also dangerous. When it gets into the body, it binds with the haemoglobin, it prevents oxygen from getting to the body and can cause death when it accumulates in the body,” he said.
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