Air pollution: Now Nigerian students found solution...what next?

The students at the 2019 SAGE World Competition in California, Berkeley, United States of America. 

The danger

Did you know that Nigeria is the 10th most polluted country in the world and Kano State the most polluted city in Africa? This is according to the 2018 World Air Quality Report Region & City PM2.5 Ranking by IQAir and Greenpeace.

The report went further to state that Nigeria has a mortality for air pollution of 307.4 for every 100,000 people, the second worst in all of Africa. More people die from air pollution in Nigeria than in South Africa, Kenya, and Angola, combined.

World Health Organisation, WHO, estimate that air pollution is a critical risk factor for noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) worldwide, causing about 24 per cent of all adult deaths from heart disease, 29 per cent from lung cancer, 25 per cent from stroke, and 43 per cent from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), the WHO estimates show.

The recently updated estimates by the HEI and the IHME show that more than 114,000 deaths in Nigeria in 2017 were due to air pollution. This was the highest in all of Africa.

Updated figures from the Health Effects Institute (HEI) and Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s (IHME), show that more than 64,000 people died from household air pollution in Nigeria in 2017, mainly from the burning of solid fuels such as charcoal and wood for cooking in open fires and leaky stoves.

Nigeria’s annual mean concentrations of PM2.5 level is far worse, as the country’s air contains more than four times as many of the deadly PM2.5 pollutants as the WHO guidelines for outdoor air quality (46.3 μg/m3 compared with the WHO's annual guideline of 10 μg/m3).

Note that PM2.5s are microscopic particles of 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter which can clog human lungs. They are linked to heart disease, stroke and lung cancer. Yet it appears that enough awareness has not been created on this great danger.

Indigenuous Scientific intervention?
Recently, a device which detects high levels of polluted air and alerts human beings through their phones and smart devices was developed in Nigeria by students of Marist College, Yangoji.

The device, a smart air quality monitor called MARIST-AQM utilizes various sensors and microprocessors to detect elevated levels of harmful particles and chemicals quickly and relay that information to users via computers and smartphones in a format that is easy to interpret.

It is said to measure dust, carbon dioxide, various harmful chemicals, temperature, and humidity upon which it triggers a loud alarm and sends warning phone calls if air quality, humidity and temperature are above normal.

Their project was presented at the Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) competition and out of 16 others projects made by students from different school all over Nigeria and it qualified to represent the country. The college then competed with technologically advanced countries like China, America, Japan, Israel, Vietnam and others at the event at Students for Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) 2019 World Competition in California, Berkeley, United States of America this August, 2019. It emerged a gold winner for the project.

Speaking about the project in a letter the school wrote to Daar Communications requesting for courtesy call (which was made available to this reporter), Marist College, Yangoji said, “we are keen on developing this project and continuing the awareness creation we already commenced aimed at solving the problem of air pollution.”

A member of the team that developed the device, Duribe Ikedinachi reportedly disclosed the aim of the project as creating awareness on air pollution. “Everyone should be aware of the bad air quality we have in our hands, across the world. By this project, we hope to create our own businesses and become true entrepreneurs. We intend to sell this product to the world because air pollution is a global problem,” he said.

What’s next?
A survey by this report reveals the unanimous call by Nigerian citizens for the Ministry of Science and Technology in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment to cash into this laudable innovation by these students.

A lecturer in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Federal Polytechnic Oko, Mr Chima Otuka while commenting on the development lauded the invention. He recommended that the federal government should as a matter of urgency get interested in the project and finance its development.

In his words, “It is glaring that these students made a groundbreaking invention. The federal government needs to be interested in it. Whether they would want to buy into it is another kettle of fish. You know how the Nigerian system works. But the best piece of advice would be for the federal government to, as a matter of urgency, buy into the idea, develop it and implement its use in the planning and development of urban areas in Nigeria, where air pollution is recorded more.”

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