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Averting deaths from generator fumes

By Adedotun Ajayi

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The persistent reports of deaths occasioned by generator fumes across the country have become worrisome.

Last week, a 29-year-old lady identified as Tawa and her five months old baby, were reportedly killed by generator fumes in Owo, Ondo State. 

The deceased’s husband was reported to be in  coma and was being treated at the Intensive Care Unit, ICU, of the Federal Medical Centre, Owo.

In 2021, four members of a family died from generator fumes in Sanmora in Irepodun Local Government area of Kwara State.

The victims, who travelled in from Lagos to celebrate Sallah festival, left the generator set working all night while they went to bed.

Consequently, they suffocated and died in their sleep.

Many could not comprehend how ‘ordinary’ generator fumes could kill seamlessly.

Sadly, several of such tales have been reported across the country and many Nigerians are dying by installment.

Electricity, as a form of energy supplied through cables and wires for lighting, heating, and driving machines, helps to power our technology and drive national development. Electricity generation over the years has been from public sources. With perennial inefficiency in power management over these years, and epileptic power supply that has bedeviled our public power systems, Nigerians could not  but settle for alternative sources. Electricity power generating sets became that ready option open to most people for home comfort and business productivity. Abused usages of these generators have had life threatening consequences and deserve attention to avert occurrences.

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) named Nigeria as the highest importer of generators in Africa.

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In a report released by the agency in January 2023, titled; ‘Renewable Energy Roadmap: Nigeria’ IRENA said Nigeria is indeed among world’s largest importers worldwide of generators. 
The report holds that no other African country imports as many generators as the largest economy on the continent does.

IRENA blamed it on poor electricity supply in the country and lack of financing in the power sector. It disclosed that households and small and medium-sized enterprises spend more on kerosene, fuel and diesel compared to grid electricity.

In a telephone conversation with The Hope Ayodeji Ayanleye,  a public health educator said generator fumes is dangerous and can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, which can be fatal.

In his submission, he spoke on how to avert deaths from generator fumes.

He said; “Generators should always be kept outdoors in a well-ventilated area. Never run a generator inside your home or in a closed garage. The generator should be placed at least 20 feet away from windows, doors, and vents to prevent fumes from entering your home. The installation of carbon monoxide detectors on every level of your home and near sleeping areas is very important but sadly Nigerians have neglected it for too long.

“The detectors should be installed and tested regularly to ensure they are working correctly. Another important factor that shouldn’t be undermined is the manufacturer’s instructions, one thing about Nigerians is that we don’t read, we just assume, when buying electronics, we should always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. This includes information about how to properly set up and use your generator. Lastly, don’t overload the generator by plugging too many appliances into it. Overloading the generator can cause it to overheat and produce more fumes. By following these simple tips, deaths from generator fumes will drastically reduce,” he said

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In the same vein, a doctor, at the Ondo state teaching hospital who does not want his name in print said, as most health experts have warned, fumes from generators, like those from car exhausts, are deadly. He said the fumes contain carbon monoxide, a poisonous, invisible and odourless gas. When inhaled, carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in the tissues and can easily lead to death.

 “The telltale signs on the victims are dizziness, nausea, headache, even confusion, symptoms mistakenly attributed to too much alcohol or something else. That explains why the story of people who sleep at night with their generators on without waking up the next morning has become commonplace. Besides, exposure to moderate and high levels of carbon monoxide over a long period of time has been linked with an increased risk of heart disease. There should be a public awareness campaigns by the relevant authorities on the dangers posed by generators at homes” he said

Bukun Phil, a lifestyle coach said for as long as epileptic power supply persists, so long will the use of generators be inevitable

He however called for caution in handling electricity generating sets in order to avoid further resultant loss of lives through their emitted fumes.

According to him; “Regular reports of deaths occasioned by generator fumes have presented generating sets as very deadly basically because of our lack of pro-activeness in safely handling them. Averting this regular deadly recurrence is very simple because it lies in us as the disaster is not airborne but clearly man-made.

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“Every picture of deaths through generator fumes published in our various daily newspapers is usually a sad reminder of worse cases that abound. The government has all it takes to enforce compliance on proper handling of generators including charging perpetrators of generator-related death for manslaughter. Essentially, sensitisation should focus national attention on generator fumes as potential cause of death that has largely been under-reported” he said

In the same vein, Nathaniel Richards, an entrepreneur said stabilizing the public power supply, will avert these frequent deadly mishaps in the long run, and deepen national development as a result.

According to him; “In Nigeria today, citizens provide almost everything for themselves: water, security, drainages to electricity which is meant to be the full responsibility of the government. Once electricity problem is tackled, deaths from generator fumes will be a thing of the past, we urge the government and relevant stakeholders to look into this as it is a matter of urgency, let’s save lives,” he said

“Safety matters should come above comfort,” a security expert, Moses Abolale, told The Hope.

“Generator fumes can kill. It kills slowly.  That is why, apart from those who died overnight, there are those whose deaths had foundation in fumes they had inhaled over time,”he added.

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