The Minister of Science and Technology, Prof. Ita Ewa has called on scientists to deploy scientific and technological tools to combat Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) in Nigeria.
The minister, who was represented by the Director, Human Resources, Mr. Sunday Enokola, made this call at a seminar on POPs organized for officials of the ministry and agencies under the ministry in Abuja.
Ewa described POPs as those chemicals or pollutants that when released into the environment take a very long time to degrade thus causing great harm to the ecosystem and urged experts to join hands to tackle the menace in Nigeria.
He said: “I must at this juncture mandate the National Research Institute for Chemical Technology (NARICT) and the National Agency for Biotechnology Development Agency (NABDA) to apply chemical tools to fight POPs to a standstill in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment.”
During his presentation, the Deputy Director, Chemical Technology and Energy Research Department, Mr. Ekanem Udoh said that POPs are toxic chemicals that adversely affect human health and the environment around the world.
Udoh explained that POPs are mostly generated by soil insecticides used for agricultural seed treatment and control of disease vectors such as insects, and can be transported by wind and water.
He said: “POPs generated in one country can and do affect people and wildlife far from where they are used or released. They persist for long periods of time in the environment and can accumulate and pass from one species to the next through the food chain.
“Some of the noticeable health effects associated with POPs include headache, dizziness, irritability, loss of appetite, nausea, muscle twitching, convulsions, loss of consciousness, testicular cancer, prostate cancer, leukemia, migraines, respiratory infections, diabetes, anxiety and depression.
“The environmental impact includes slow solubility in water which degrades slowly over the course of the years. It is also toxic for aquatic life.”
Highlighting ways of reducing the menace of POPs, Udoh advised Nigerians to adopt and implement best environmental management practices which recommend environmentally sound methods for handling, management and disposal of hazardous chemicals, including POPs.
“Some of these practices include waste prevention and minimization; sampling analysis and monitoring of POPs pesticides; proper handling, collection, packaging, labeling, transportation and storage and application of environmentally sound disposal methods,” he added.
He further said that the majority of POPs wastes are destroyed by high temperature incineration that purportedly gives rise to almost total oxidation of organic products into carbon dioxide and safely disposable oxidation by-products.
According to him, “Any chlorine present is presumably converted to hydrogen chloride gas, which is removed and either neutralized or recovered for further use.
“Some of the basic processes behind them include incineration using cement kilns; gas phase chemical reduction; plasma arc systems; base-catalysed decomposition (BCD); solvent electronic technology (SET); molten materials process; electrochemical oxidation, and bioremediation.”
He urged researchers to continue in POPs management through producing and promoting pesticides and insecticides that are environmentally friendly.
“The National Agency for Biotechnology (NABDA) will be able to develop pest resistive crops that will not require the use of any pesticides and NARICT will be able to domesticate its technology in the production of wide-range ‘bioinsecticides’ from local plants. These are insecticides that are environmental friendly,” he noted.
Delivering her vote of thanks, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Rabi Jimeta, said that it behooved on Nigerians to avoid activities that would continually destroy the environment.
“The little effort put in our various locations towards protecting the environment will contribute to globally solving the problems of POPs,” she said.