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Soot pollution: NGO sets up website for Rivers residents to calculate life expectancy

Soot pollution: NGO sets up website for Rivers residents to calculate life expectancy
February 06
10:47 2023

Extra Step Initiative, a non-governmental organisation, in partnership with X3M Ideas, has unveiled ‘SootCity’ – a website for Rivers residents to calculate their life expectancy amid the soot pollution in the state. 

In a statement on Monday, the organisation said the website predicts life expectancy using a data model embedded with decades of soot research across countries, international organisations as well as time spent in soot-affected areas.

Soot, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is one of the deadliest forms of air pollution. It increases the risk of asthma, heart attacks, strokes and cancer.

In 2021, an investigation by TheCable found that there was a 30 percent increase in morbidity and mortality rates in Rivers state 16 months after the soot incident started in 2016.


Eugene Abels, founder of Extra Step Initiative, said the state government needs to address the environmental and health impact of soot pollution.

“After 60 years of Rivers State being the hub of the hydrocarbon industry and with the damaging activities of the non-state actors, the Rivers state government with external support must lead the charge to audit the damage to our flora and fauna particularly the respiratory health of the residents of Port Harcourt and other host communities from the activities of legal and illegal refining of crude oil so as to curb the rate of cancers and renal failure amongst children, indigent people and pregnant women,” he said.

“It is also our belief that even the United Nations Ogoni Clean Up report is obsolete and should be updated by the Federal Government to reflect the current realities which a 10-year-old report does not capture.”



Steve Babaeko, founder of X3M Ideas, said he hopes the tool pushes the government to action.

“With the launch of the website, we add another important tool that we hope will not only jolt the government to take action but will also communicate to the wider public the urgency of the situation, not just for those in Port Harcourt but for everyone across the country,” he said.

Speaking about the high rate of soot-related illnesses recorded yearly, Oge Isokariari, PRO of the Association of Public Health Physicians, University of Port Harcourt, said: “The timely nature of this intervention cannot be overemphasised, considering the recent wave of soot-related illnesses.


“The state government itself through the office of the former commissioner for environment, Prof. Roseline Konya, in 2019, reviewed over 22,077 cases of respiratory diseases related to the presence of soot in the city.

“Every year we record thousands of cases of soot-related illnesses. It is time for us to demand action from the Government to save what’s left of the lives of residents of Port Harcourt.”

The soot problem, which became evident in Port Harcourt in 2016, stems from illegal bunkering and oil refining activities which lead to the harmful release of toxins into the atmosphere.

In 2022, Nyesom Wike, the state governor, began shutting down illegal refineries and arresting persons involved in oil bunkering in the state.


The senate has also moved a motion to curb soot pollution and reduce health hazards.


This story is published in partnership with Report for the World, a global service program that supports local public interest journalism.


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