The report by Mojeed Alabi on Industrial pollution in Ile-Ife, drawing public attention to a very critical issue, is important and much welcome. We must pay more attention to our environment and avoid jeopardizing our precious health unnecessarily. I am also impressed with the passion and energy Mr Alabi brought into the assignment while criss-crossing the neighbourhood for information.
However I must express my strong objections to aspects of the report, particularly in his representation of my positions, as published in today’s New Telegraph. First, I did not approach the Ife metal re-cycling company during my 2013 blood lead studies in Ile-Ife and Zamfara (based largely on gold-mining), so it would not be correct to report that I was “barred by the management of the company.” Rather it was my contacts, casual employees of the company who opted out of our efforts to incorporate them into the study. And we had to respect their decision (for whatever reasons) as our protocols could only accommodate volunteers.
Also, I am not comfortable with the summary Mr Alabi gave to my position, which incidentally was the concluding statement in today’s segment of the report: “ we need money.” The issue is far beyond money. Mr Alabi actually offered to raise funds for me to carry out elemental analyses in blood of subjects; but I carefully explained to him not only my scepticism on finding statistically significant elevated levels of the elements he sought in blood of subjects (based on the soil levels he had presented), I also was not ready to keep sending samples abroad for analyses. (The N500,000 figure I had supplied, at his insistence, was for sample collection, preparation, and courier abroad.) The issue is certainly not “more money,” but more commitment to building local capacity for research. That was, and remains my point. I’m afraid Mr Alabi somehow missed that vital point.
My general take on this issue is the need for genuine dialogue and collaboration between industry, regulatory authorities/government, civil society, and academia. Together we can devise acceptable home-grown solutions to our environment-health challenges if a conducive atmosphere, build on mutual respect and appreciation, is provided. We must identify what exactly are the problems and address them creatively with the sustainable development of Society, Economy, and Environment-Health dimensions as our goal. Heaping all the blames, founded or unfounded on one sector of society only hardens that sector for which it is public health that will eventually suffer. For instance Mr Alabi’s extensive discussion of radioactivity in his report only serves to discredit and undermine the very important points he made on particulate pollution. It would be very unfortunate if his report is treated with contempt as a result of such unhelpful over-generalization.
Professor of Health Physics and Environment
Department of Physics and Engineering Physics
Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
28th December, 2016