The invasion of Toxins: Our increasingly unsafe environment

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Chike B. Emenike, an engineer, is also a consultant based in Lagos.

Ebola virus, the latest threat to our lives, has joined forces with HIV/AIDS, the Boko Haram and other ills to compound matters for Nigerians. And now added to all these is the asyet unacknowledged health danger of living in an increasingly toxic environment. Researchers have long warned of shortened life-spans, especially in Africa, Nigeria in particular, where the average life expectancy has plunged to about 50 years for men and 57 for women.

Yet we live in the 21st century where living standards are presumed to be higher than they were in the past “primitive” centuries. But from what is known of our world today, the so-called “primitive” past seems safer than our “advanced” present.

Here in Nigeria, for instance, there are now too many threats to life, apart from hunger and unemployment. And most of it are man-made; made by ourselves or imported from foreigners whose way of life we foolishly copy.

Until recently, death by Nigerians through terrorist bomb attacks was a remote possibility. Then, gbam!, like a thief in the night, Ebola barged in. What scourge shall visit us next?

But beyond the present reality of Ebola, HIV/AIDS and terrorism, we now also have toxins to contend with. Only that the threat posed by these silent invaders are deceptively less obvious but no less dangerous. What is more, they have since invaded our environment, embedded themselves in our homes, offices and public places, making present day living in Nigeria, and elsewhere, all the more dangerous and precarious.

How much do you know about these subtle enemies lurking all around you; and how do you protect yourself?

But before we go further answer the following: do you feel less alert and aware than you used to? Tired or drained of energy for no apparent reason? Wooden and lifeless, at times?

Now disregard the stress induced by high tension urban life, as in a city like Lagos, for instance, and reflect truthfully on the above questions. Count yourself lucky if your answer to all of them is no. But if not, then prepare for the battle to regain your health and live longer.

Whatever your answer may be, you should know this. Nigeria, like the rest of the “civilized” world, is swimming in toxic substances, recreational and pharmaceutical drugs, pollutants, household chemicals, food preservatives and so many other such enemies of our lives.

These substances can lodge in your body for years, dull our senses, reduce your ability to think clearly and worse, prevent any advancement in mental and spiritual well-being.

Yet, scientific researchers and health-care delivery policy formulators and managers around the world have been slow in developing an all-natural regimen, a purification programme of sorts, designed to eliminate the accumulated drugs and toxins from one’s system and free one from the devastating effects they have on the body, mind and spirit. The big interests in the Western world who are benefiting from the way things are now are, no doubt, the ones playing down the evident threats to our lives.

But the truth remains that we live in a chemical oriented society. One would be hard put to find someone in Nigeria today who can beat his/her chest and claim not to be affected by this fact. The vast majority of the public is subjected every day to the intake of food preservatives and other chemical poisons including atmospheric poisons, pesticides and the like. Almost all processed and tinned foods in Nigeria fall into this category.

Added to this are the ubiquitous pain killers, antibiotics, tranquilisers and other medical drugs freely used in Nigeria. Furthermore the widespread use of psychotropic substances such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine, LSD and even industrial glue, contribute heavily to the scene.

An enormous volume of material has been written on the subject of toxic substances, their reported effects and the prospects for their handling. Examples abound in publications and news reports.

Besides the known effects of narcotics and preservatives, the current environment is permeated with other life-hostile elements; the invisible threats. Radioactive waves, harmful Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) from high technology products, pollutants and chemical agents of all types are not only everywhere, but are becoming even more prevalent in Nigeria as time goes on. In fact they are so commonplace they are almost impossible to avoid. Consider the ubiquitous computer systems, cellphones, telecommunication masts, electronic devices, electric power plants and systems, etc., all emitting harmful radiations all around us.

Some of the things put in canned fish, meat, vegetables, soup or frozen fish and poultry, could be considered toxic. They are preservatives and the cellular action of a preservative is to impede decay. Yet digestion and cellular action are based on decay. In other words, these things might be great for the manufacturer, as they preserve the product but they could be very bad for the consumer. It is not that one is on a food bashing kick or a kick against preservatives. The point is that we are surrounded by toxins.

This example alone of preservatives in foods illustrates the degree to which one can encounter toxic substances in daily living.

Now, combine this with nations of the Western world vying with each other in the manufacture, testing and use of nuclear weapons (and so increasing the amount of radioactive material free in the environment). Then add the ready availability of industrial and agricultural chemicals, and toxic substances developed for chemical warfare.

In short (and putting it bluntly) the society, at this time, is riddled with toxic substances; both in the urban and rural centres alike. A human purification programme should be put in place by government and made an integral part of our health-care delivery system. But in the short term governments at all levels should initiate information and sensitization programmes to educate the public about the prevalence of these harmful substances, where to look out for them, how to avoid them and, most importantly, how to embark upon the detoxification and purification of the body, mind and spirit.

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