My experiences, acquired over the last three decades in the management of infertility within and outside the country, coupled with those obtained since the establishment of the first Modern Mayr Medicine Health Clinic in Lagos, have rekindled my interest in an article we published in the Reproductive Health magazine about six years ago.
It dwelt on reproductive occupational health hazards. The article was also published in an academic journal, the African Journal of Reproductive Medicine. One has realised that virtually most of our patients presenting with infertility who come from the oil-producing regions have myriads of toxins and heavy metal overload, such that even the best of IVFs with good embryos do not stand a good chance of positive result, unless such patients undergo a thorough Mayr therapy detoxification process.
The success that has been recorded in the management of such cases of infertility, prostate ailments and liver disease has necessitated a revisit of this subject, with special focus on the environmental hazards associated with exposure to toxins peculiar to the oil and gas sector. Attention is also given to the prevention of these health hazards, and the management of established cases, including fatal ones.
Over the last hundred years, oil and gas have emerged as two of the most sought-after energy sources in the world. Petroleum products such as gasoline, propane, kerosene, heating oil, and asphalt, as well as many plastics, paints, pesticides, solvents, and cosmetics are used on a daily basis by the majority of the population. Even some clothes and medicines are made from oil!
The development of our petrochemical industry has brought us great wealth as a nation. Not only has the country benefited economically in increased wealth, but many workers are also reaping the rewards as high salary earners.
But then, crude oil is toxic and has many harmful effects on our health and the environment. It emits many toxins in all stages of its extraction and refinement, starting with the methods used to explore the environment and dig for it, transport it, purify it into various products, as well as the ways in which it is consumed by end-users.
Numerous chemicals are used in various processes in the oil and gas sector, the numbers and complexity of which have greatly increased over the past decades. Many of these chemicals are toxic and have been linked to many illnesses.
For example, ethylene glycol monobutyl ether (also known as 2-Butoxyethanol or 2-BE) which is found in foaming agents and is used during hydraulic fracturing operations, is deadly when inhaled and may lead to blood disorders if a person is exposed to it. This chemical is also linked to liver cancer and can cause degeneration of the testes, among other reproductive problems.
Another chemical, called 2-(2-Ethoxyethoxy)ethanol is found in a number of products used in the oil and gas industry, including biocides, hydraulic fracturing fluids and shale stabilisers. It is a suspected carcinogen, known to cause deformities and organ malformations in newborns. It can also negatively affect male fertility.
Ethoxylated nonylphenol is used in surfactants and additives to increase viscosity of the oil. This chemical is an endocrine disruptor that mimics oestrogen and mediates hormonal imbalance, thereby negatively impacting male development and reproductive ability. It impedes brain development and also causes atrophy of the thymus (a critical component of the immune system).
Varied pollutants are released during the normal processes going on in the petroleum industry, many of which pose potential and serious health hazards. Despite precautions, accidents do occur periodically in the course of production, refining and distribution of petroleum products. These may result from accidental discharges attributed to equipment failure, malfunctioning and deterioration occasioned by corrosion, ageing of pipelines, and deliberate or willful acts of vandalisation.
Whether exploration takes place onshore or offshore, it generates wastes that include atmospheric emissions, spillage of drill cuttings, drilling fluids, deck drainage, well treatment fluids, sanitary and domestic wastes, as well as accidental oil spills.
Atmospheric emissions from rigs consist mainly of exhausts from diesel engines supplying power to meet drilling and hoisting electricity requirements of rigs. These emissions sometimes contain small amounts of sulphur dioxide (dependent upon fuel sulphur content) and exhaust smoke (heavy hydrocarbons). An unexpected over-pressure formation encountered during drilling may result in a blowout or gas discharge.
Apart from the chemicals and activities of processing oil, oil itself is toxic. Breathing fumes or swallowing food or liquids contaminated by oil and gas causes reproductive health problems such as irregular menstrual cycles, miscarriages, stillbirths, and birth defects. These problems may have early warning signs such as abdominal pain or irregular bleeding.
Regular contact with oil and gas has also been linked to increased risk of developing certain cancers.
Refineries are factories where oil is made into products such as gasoline, diesel and heating fuels, asphalt, lubricating oils, and plastics. All these products are toxic when one gets regular and prolonged contact with them. For workers in oil refineries, this is difficult to avoid. The health of such workers is therefore at great risk. They have a high risk of contacting cancer of the lips, stomach, liver, pancreas, connective tissue, prostate, eye, brain, and blood.
To be concluded