Health officials have expressed concerns over the prevalence of soot in the Niger Delta region, which they said is having an adverse effect on the health condition of the people.
Sources said that many of the affected residents are becoming familiar faces in pharmacies and drug stores, especially in Rivers and Bayelsa States.
A Port Harcourt-based pharmacist, Mrs. Agbomma Esom-ibe, also confirmed the development.
Esom-ibe, who is the owner of AB Pharmacy, explained that her drug-dispensing outlet attends to many victims of soot on daily basis.
“Residents suffering from soot often turn up in our pharmacies demanding expectorants and vitamin C to deal with catarrh and flu-like symptoms they have,” she said.
According to Wiki, expectorants are medicine that promotes the secretion of sputum by the air passages, used to treat coughs.
On how she and other pharmacists can tell a soot-plagued patient from the one infected with COVID-19, the state chairman of the Association for Community Pharmacists of Nigeria disclosed that the virus comes with temperature.
“If it is viral, it comes with fever. But this one (soot) is different. The sputum when they cough is black, showing that it has something to do with the soot.
So they use these expectorants to dislodge phlegm and congestion from their systems. It is even worse now because of the harmattan season.
“The Vitamin C, on the other, is a traditional drug. It is like an immune booster for them,” she said.
A worried Esom-ibe further disclosed that it is not enough for residents to lock windows and doors to block out black soot.
She warned that unless urgent measures are taken by policymakers, the psychological impact of soot will force many people into depression.
“Do you know what it means coughing and seeing black matters in your phlegm when you don’t smoke? People are scared. It is like dying in piecemeal.
How will they continue living in this manner again for the next five years? This is the question nobody has been able to answer.
“Most people you see masked up in Rivers are doing it because of soot, not for COVID-19. It is nervy to wake up and find your slippers stained. Blow your nose in the handkerchief, it comes out black. You will naturally get scared and be wondering you are still alive or dead.
“Who knows what this soot is doing to the ozone layer? Rivers and Niger Delta People deserve to breathe fresh air,” she lamented.
20,000 residents, workers suffer from respiratory-related ailments
According to the 2019 peer-group scientific research headed by ex-Rivers Commissioner of Environment Roseline Konya, over 20,000 residents have suffered from respiratory-related ailments within the last five years.
The research was based on a hospital review of 22,077 patients, which comprised women and men, who were treated for soot-related conditions, some suffering from respiratory, skin, reproductive problems
Presently, the Garden City is still without a commissioner for the environment for over nine months after Governor Nyesom Wike sacked the former occupant of the ministry, Dr. Igbiks Tamuno.
A statement issued by Wike’s Special Assistant on Media, Kelvin Ebiri, disclosed that the commissioner was dismissed for writing to construction giant, Julius Berger which was handling state government projects to stop work without his approval.
In a similar vein, the same governor terminated the appointment of Commissioner for Health, Prof. Princewill Chike, on December 13.
The governor said that Chike was axed for not seeking his consent before hosting the preliminary session of the Medical and Dental Council of Nigeria in Port Harcourt.
He, therefore, saw his action and bold move as embarrassing to his government.
To date, both Tamuno and Chike are yet to be replaced.