Is Your Potable Water Safe?

An in-depth look at how oil spills contaminate drinking water in Port Harcourt, Nigeria

One of the most exhilarating feelings in the world is, perhaps, the feeling you get when drinking water after an exhausting day. The water flows down your throat and the feeling is at once cooling and invigorating. But beyond quenching thirst and cooling our bodies, water performs several functions in the human body.

For example, water makes up 95 percent of the brain and more than two-thirds of the human body weight. Slight dehydration (a mere 2 percent drop in our body’s water supply) could lead to dizziness, short-term memory loss and mental fatigue. So the role of water in our lives is not only functional, it is an essential ingredient for wellbeing and a healthy life.

Given the role of water in human lives, water as a commodity is hardly ever scarce. Packaged water, for example, is a main source of drinking water for many Nigerians, especially those in transit. On a daily basis, an enormous quantity of water is sold in plastic bottles and polyethylene bags, often referred to as sachet water. These are available everywhere – on the streets, in markets, in offices, and in just about any space one can think of. Because of the seeming ubiquity of “pure” drinking water, we often do not give much thought to the safety of the water we drink and use in our daily activities. A question that we often fail to ask is: “How safe is the water we use?”

The water safety question is one that should be posed more often. Water faces several contaminants which can adversely affect health, and Nigeria is a country infamous for her lax rules and love for cutting corners. It would be no surprise to learn that water treatment given to commercially available potable water is inadequate – by a long shot. This article takes a look at water pollution and the associated health risks. In particular, it draws attention to an important but often neglected source of water pollution which poses serious health risks for people in oil-producing communities – oil spills.

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