Cancer linked to crude oil products

GUARDIAN Newspaper

REGULAR contacts with crude oil products like petrol and kerosene do not normally trigger any fear that they may cause diseases.

But there is the need for caution now as Nigerian researchers have associated the constant exposure of people to petrochemical products with the rising cases of different types of cancer in the country. Nigerians are constantly being exposed to kerosene and petrol due to unstable electricity. And a time there was when folks in the Niger Delta, home of oil production in the country, gave children seized by convulsions, petrol to drink.

Also, as Nigeria joined the rest of the world to mark the World Polio Day yesterday, it emerged that the country is the only nation out of the three remaining polio endemic countries to record an increase in cases with 36 per cent rise, that is from 62 cases this time last year to 97 cases today.

However, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative

(GPEI) has reported a 63 per cent decline in the number of new cases of polio, from 467 at this time last year to 171 this year.

Besides, there is the likely occurrence of a major yellow fever outbreak possibly of a much higher severity than previously reported in Nigeria, Consultant Epidemiologist at the Federal Ministry of Health, Dr. Akin Oyemakinde, has said.

Therefore, urgent action is required to save over 101 million of Nigerians who are vulnerable to another yellow fever epidemic, experts in the health sector who gave this indication warned yesterday. To lower the risk of a new outbreak in Nigeria, they called attention to the urgent need to intensify immunisation on a larger scale.

A recent letter from the Executive Director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (PHCDA) to the Minister of Health raised the concern that Nigeria is one of the yellow fever endemic countries and emphasized the need for mass vaccination in the country.

More worrisome, according to the experts, is that cases have also been reported in The Chad Republic, Cote d’Ivoire and Liberia and of course the recent outbreak from the Cameroun.

Experts who spoke at a stakeholders’ meeting on the preparation for mass vaccination against yellow fever in Abuja yesterday called on the country to develop a mass vaccination plan to check the large number of its people who are not immune from the ailment. The workshop was put together by the National PHCDA to develop a yellow fever preventive campaign plan for the country. Already, the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have pledged support for any vaccination plan.

A recent study published in Biomarkers in Cancer by researchers at the University of Lagos found that mechanics, fuel attendants and those regularly exposed to petrochemical products have higher risk of developing cancer than the normal population.

The researchers from the Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Faculty of Pharmacy, led by Dr. Chimezie Anyakora, concluded: “The findings of this study clearly show that fuel attendants and automobile mechanics have significant exposures to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) as manifested by the level of urinary 1-hydroxypyrene (biomarker for PAHs) detected.

“So far, there is no established benchmark for the level of PAHs in urine, but our findings indicate the possibility of future cancer cases in this population as a result of their occupational exposure. Even though various studies have linked cigarette smoking to increased 1-hydroypyrene levels, the current study was not able to link the level of 1-hydroxypyene with the smoking habits of the subjects.”

Earlier studies by the researchers suggested that more Nigerians are at a greater risk of developing different types of cancer due to exposure to crude oil pollutants.

According to the studies, more than 25 per cent of Nigerians are at an increased risk of developing cancer due to exposure to toxic chemicals from crude oil pollution, PAHs. They also suggest that PAHs can be genotoxic; that is, the damage caused can be inherited.

Previous studies indicated that PAHs cause a decrease in sperm count and fertility in crude oil-polluted environment of the Niger Delta. However, besides the people of the Niger Delta, the studies indicated that other Nigerians, even students, are exposed to high level of crude oil pollution and are at the risk of developing cancer.

PAHs, also known as poly-aromatic hydrocarbons or polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, are potent atmospheric pollutants. They occur in oil, coal, and tar deposits, and are produced as byproducts of fuel burning, whether fossil fuel or biomass. As a pollutant, they are of concern because some compounds have been identified as carcinogenic, mutagenic, and teratogenic (likely to cause malformations).

PAHs are also found in cooked foods. Studies have shown that high levels of PAHs are found, for example, in meat cooked at high temperatures such as grilling or barbecuing, and in smoked fish.

The study is titled: “Urinary 1-hydroxypyrene as a biomarker to carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure.”

A biomarker is a measurable biochemical, physiological, behavioural, or other alteration within an organism that can be recognised as associated with an established or possible health impairment or disease.

According to the latest edition of Weekly Polio Update published by GPEI, Afghanistan recorded 37.5 decline in polio cases from 40 cases in 2011 to 25 in 2012, and Pakistan, a 62.7 per cent decline from 118 cases in 2011 to 44 cases today.

According to the GPEI, four cases of new Type 1 Wild Polio Virus (WPV1) were recorded last week in Kaduna, Kano, Katsina, and Sokoto states.

“The most recent case was the one from Kaduna State, with onset of paralysis on September 22, bringing the total number of cases for 2012 to 97. A second-round immunisation campaign, in response to the recent Taraba WPV3 case, is ongoing,” it said.


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