By Samuel Chan Mut Turoah
OPINION – I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for choosing to work in Bentiu, Upper Nile and South Sudan at large. As concern citizen of the above mentioned community, I would like to point out some important concern about your operations in Bentiu. Crude oil has been leaking and pouring into the rivers of Bentiu and is causing numerous and significant health issues for children, pregnant mothers, and adults.
Trees and the grass are dying, fish and some animals are also dying. I’m urging all the oil companies working in greater Bentiu to consider budgeting for the establishment of both Obs and Gynae hospitals & Paediatric hospitals.
Each county must have three hospitals (Obs and Gynae & Paediatric hospitals) and this must be budgeted before the resumption of the oils production to enhance timely diagnosis and treatment of crude oil-related illnesses to limit or avoid serious adverse outcomes.
Failure to do that, we the citizens of the land will call for protest to stop all the oil companies from operating in our land. We also acknowledge that South Sudan benefits mainly on oil production but we can’t let them enjoy at expenses of our lives.
Broadening the Perspectives: What is crude oil?
Crude oil is a complex combination of hydrocarbons. It consists of predominantly aliphatic, alicyclic and aromatic hydrocarbons. It may also contain small amounts of nitrogen, oxygen and sulfur compounds. This category encompasses light, medium, and heavy petroleum, as well as the oils extracted from tar sands.
Specifically Crude Oil contains Benzene, Butane, N-Hexane, Isopentane, Pentane, and Stoddard Solvent. Benzene is a known human carcinogen.
According to Paul Goldstein, Ph.D., Professor of Toxicology “Exposure occurs via inhalation, ingestion (of liquid droplets in the air), and direct skin contact”. Some of the health effects will be long-term sequelae and may last a lifetime or affect future generations. Crude oil is a known teratogen and can cause birth defects and changes in fetal development. The target organs for crude oil are the hematopoietic (blood forming) system, lymphatic system, nervous system, and reproductive system. The Benzene component is a known carcinogen.
Health Effects on Children and Pregnant Mothers
Any chemical that can cross the placenta influences the development of the embryo and fetus. This is particularly true at the time when cells are dividing and differentiating into specific tissues of the nervous, circulatory, and immune systems. According to the World Health Organization, the embryo, fetus, or child is particularly sensitive to even minute concentrations of toxic chemicals. Crude oil and its components are known teratogens and cause birth defects, changes in fetal development, and decreased fetal survival.
Health Effects on Adults
Breathing the fumes from crude oil are known to cause chemical pneumonia, irritation of the nose, throat, and lungs, headache, dizziness, drowsiness, loss of coordination, fatigue, nausea, and labored breathing. Chronic exposure can result in irregular heartbeats, convulsions, and coma.
Since Crude Oil is not readily biodegradable, and the effects of exposure to this toxin will be felt not only acutely, but from generation to generation I believe there’s a need for establishment of Health centres to treat crude oil-related illnesses and improve the quality of lives.
Children and pregnant mothers are at significant risk. All exposures, no matter how seemingly insignificant, may prove to be consequential. What may seem to be a relatively trivial exposure in a healthy individual may potentially prove catastrophic, and the consequences of both acute and chronic exposures to crude oil may take years, even decades, to fully reveal the array of disease and morbidity than will result from exposure to this substance.
The author is a concerned citizen of Unity state and a member of South Sudan Liberation Movement (SSLM). He can be reached via: firstname.lastname@example.org
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