Cement Industry's Hidden Toll: High Diabetes and Obesity Rates Near Sokoto Factory

A study by Nigerian researchers reveals significant health risks, including high rates of diabetes and obesity, for residents and workers near a Sokoto cement factory due to cement dust exposure. The researchers urge stringent environmental assessments and pollution management to protect public health.

CoE-EDP, VisionRICoE-EDP, VisionRI | Updated: 09-07-2024 12:35 IST | Created: 09-07-2024 12:35 IST
Cement Industry's Hidden Toll: High Diabetes and Obesity Rates Near Sokoto Factory
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  • Nigeria

In Sokoto, Nigeria, a recent study conducted by researchers from the Federal University Birnin Kebbi, the University of Lagos, and other Nigerian institutions has illuminated the troubling health implications for residents and workers near a cement factory. The study highlights significant correlations between cement dust exposure and increased risks of hyperglycemia and overweight conditions among those living or working close to the factory. The research sampled 72 individuals, with findings indicating that 41.69% of participants were overweight and 6.94% were obese. Alarmingly, over half of the participants were either diabetic (52.78%) or prediabetic (31.94%). The study's demographic data showed a predominance of middle-aged men aged 31-40 years, who mostly had primary (33.33%) or secondary (45.83%) education. The blood glucose levels and body mass index (BMI) of the participants were measured using a Fine Test glucometer and a mechanical scale, respectively. The data underscored the exacerbating effects of long exposure hours, smoking, and artisanal pollutants on health, with those exposed for over 15 hours daily, smokers, and artisans showing the highest diabetes rates.

Cement Production: A Double-Edged Sword

Cement production, a vital industry for Nigeria’s economy, has unfortunately become a double-edged sword. While it boosts employment and infrastructure development, it also poses severe environmental and health risks. Cement dust, laden with heavy metals like chromium, lead, and cadmium, has been linked to numerous health issues, including respiratory disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. These heavy metals, due to their non-biodegradable nature, persist in the environment and accumulate in human bodies over time, leading to chronic health conditions. In Sokoto, the cement factory’s operations have not only contributed to economic growth but also led to significant environmental pollution. The lack of documented information on the health effects of this pollution has hampered the development of effective preventive and ameliorative measures. This study bridges that gap, providing crucial data that can inform policy decisions and public health strategies.

Urgent Need for Environmental Assessments

The researchers emphasize the need for stringent environmental impact assessments (EIA) before the establishment of such factories. They advocate for robust pollution management strategies to be implemented and monitored by public health and environmental officers. Additionally, they recommend that residential areas and artisanal workshops should be located far from cement factories to mitigate health risks. The findings resonate with global studies, which have also reported higher incidences of diabetes and obesity among populations exposed to cement dust. Heavy metals in cement can disrupt metabolic processes, impair insulin production, and increase oxidative stress, leading to diabetes and other metabolic disorders. The study’s results align with similar research conducted in Saudi Arabia and South Korea, further substantiating the health risks associated with cement dust exposure.

Staggering Diabetes Rates in Cement Factory Vicinity

The prevalence of diabetes mellitus and prediabetes recorded among the study participants were significantly higher than the national averages. The World Health Organization estimates a 4.3% diabetes prevalence for Nigeria, and a systematic review reported a 13.2% prediabetes prevalence. The results of the current study align with findings from other regions with high cement production. In Saudi Arabia, a similar study reported a 42.47% prevalence of diabetes among cement factory workers. These alarming statistics suggest that the health risks associated with cement dust exposure are not confined to one geographic region but are a global concern.

The study also found that diabetes was more prevalent among those who spent more time daily around the cement factory, as well as among smokers and artisans. These findings suggest that the duration of exposure, lifestyle, and occupation significantly increase the health risks of cement dust exposure. Pollutants accumulate in the body with increasing durations of exposure, resulting in more health damage. Regarding smoking, substances in cigarettes such as nicotine and heavy metals can cause inflammation and oxidative stress, which are risk factors for diabetes mellitus. Some artisanal works like welding and panel beating release poisonous substances, which may influence the development of hyperglycemia and diabetes.

Balancing Industrial Growth with Public Health

This study highlights the urgent need for a balance between industrial growth and public health protection. The researchers call for immediate action to address the public health crisis posed by cement dust pollution in Sokoto. They urge policymakers to enforce strict environmental regulations and promote public awareness about the health risks of cement dust. The study underscores the importance of regular health screenings for workers and residents near cement factories to detect early signs of health issues and implement timely interventions. It is crucial to conduct more studies like this to understand the full scope of the health impacts of cement dust exposure and develop effective strategies to protect vulnerable populations. The results showed that most of the people living or working around the cement company are middle-aged men (31-40) with a primary or secondary school education. More than half of the participants were either overweight (41.67%) or obese (6.94%). More than half of the participants (52.78%) were diabetic, and (31.94%) were prediabetic. Tobacco smoking, daily long hours of exposure, as well as artisanal pollutant exposure contribute to the high prevalence of diabetes mellitus and prediabetes in the study population. Overall, the results showed that operations at the cement company have negative effects on the residents. An environmental impact assessment (EIA) of any proposed cement factory must be conducted and pollution management strategies provided before the factory becomes operational. Public health and environmental officers should keep close watch on the cement factory to comply with environmental pollution management guidelines. People are advised not to live near a cement factory. More studies like the current one is advised.

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