Prof Nasiru Abdus-Salam, of the Department of Chemistry, University of Ilorin, has said that about 6 billion pounds of garbage, mainly plastics, end up in the oceans every year.
Abdus-Salam said this in his paper presentations at the 226th Inaugural Lecture of the University entitled: “Pollution: A Curse or a Necessity, the Choice is Yours”.
He noted that about 70 per cent of the earth’s surface is covered by water and only 2.5 per cent of the total universal water volume is fresh water, which represents the useful volume to man.
“Around 70 per cent of industrial waste is dumped into this little volume of water while 80 per cent of water pollution is caused due to indiscriminate discharge of domestic and industrial wastes,” he said.
He described water pollution as the presence of chemicals, physical or biological components or factors producing a condition resulting in the impairment of some beneficial uses of given body of water.
Quoting the UNICEF report, the Chemist pointed out that 2.2 billion people lack access to safe drinking water, more than half the global populations do not have access to safe sanitation and 673 million people practice open defecation.
He noted that chemical contamination in drinking water had been associated with a broad array of adverse effect, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological diseases and miscarriages.
“Some contaminants enter the water through leaching, accidental spills, runoff, and atmospheric disposition. Others, such as disinfection by products and lead, are introduced during treatment or even at the tap.
“About 15 million children under the age of five years die every year from diseases caused by drinking contaminated water.
“Man-made organic chemicals have been found in drinking water for many years. Their numbers and varieties increase as our analytical capabilities improve,” he said.
Abdus-Salam further said that many organic chemicals were carcinogenic or mutagenic, adding that Chlorinated compounds have been found in untreated well water at levels up to 21,300 micrograms and generally present at higher levels in chlorine-treated water than in untreated water.
According to him, clean and accessible potable water is one of the critical areas of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals and Nigeria can only achieve this through its Ministry of Water Resources.
“Fresh water resources are critical to a healthy environment and water usability. Presently these resources are polluted at varying degrees and necessary water standards and regulations must be enforced to ensure portable water quality, ” he said.
The don therefore advised the government to consider a basement treatment for dumpsites before use, adding that disposal in most urban areas were indiscriminately sited and unscientifically prepared.
He explained that the geological soil formation, location of water resources, and ability of the dumpsites basement to selectively retain toxic pollutants from percolation into freshwater were necessary factors for consideration for dumpsites.