Urban planning, downstream petroleum industry and human health

  • O.O. Ogunkoya


Urban growth in Nigeria has been phenomenal over the past five decades. Zoning controls and urban planning regulations are however not being enforced or  sustained. Consequences include lawless development of urban space, congestion, squalor, pollution and attendant environmental and health challenges. A glaring example is the current spate of hazardous, uncontrolled location and construction of petrol filling stations across urban space in Nigeria. The Department of Petroleum Resources stipulate among others, that petrol filling stations must be located at a minimum of 150 m from any public building such as school, place of worship, and hospital; total number of petrol stations within 2 km stretch of a station on both sides of the road will not be more than four; and the distance from the edge of the road to the nearest pump will not be less than 15 meters. This study shows that dispensing pumps particularly diesel, are now sited at the edge of roads such that trailer-trucks and other diesel-operated vehicles are re-fuelled while virtually parked on the road. Even, public places of worship are now routinely built within the confines of petrol stations. A graver danger is that posed by the fumes (volatile organic compounds) emitted during every opening of vehicle tanks and dispensing of fuel, and also discharging 3 of fuel into filling station tanks. Pump-side benzene concentrations attain 300.65 μg/m , and a petrol attendant at such a station would be inhaling ~1.08 ppm of benzene per 8-hour work shift. The maximum allowable
amount of benzene in workroom air during an 8-hour workday, 40-hour workweek is 1 ppm. Further, benzene seeps into groundwater through leakage of petroleum  products' tanks. Many households in the Alimoso area of Lagos had well water with 312.9 μg/L Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon (TPH) concentration. Maximum contaminant level (MCL) for benzene in drinking water is 0.005 mg/L (5 μg/L). Scientific studies link benzene to headaches, mucosal symptoms, aplastic anaemia, acute leukaemia, bone marrow abnormalities, irregular menstrual periods and decrease in the size of ovaries, neural birth defects - spina bifida and anencephaly, and abnormal amount of chromosomes in sperm. It currently appears that little or no attention is being paid to the safety of lives around petrol stations in Nigeria. There is an urgent need for renewed enforcement of urban petrol station controls and regulations if the nation is to avert mass mortality in the near future.

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eISSN: 0794-4896