Choking on Your Commute: How Traffic + Air Pollution is Killing Lagosians

Lagos is the city of excellence, no questions at all. And we Lagosians love our Lagos like that, no arguments. But errm, its probably the only state where you will see someone with heat rash and a congested nose. Because, lets face it, air pollution in Lagos, is not a child’s play. And when we say Traffic + Air pollution, that’s like burning rice very well and pouring plenty water to boil the burnt part with unburnt. The result is total chaos.

According to the SciTech, Nigeria is home to four (4) of the worst polluted cities in the world.

If you think this is an exaggeration: then by all means lets take a run through of the average Lagosian’s life. Wake up in the morning; get ready for work or school. And here the Air pollution starts: when there is no electricity; most people put on their generators to get prepared for the day. Have any idea what gases generator fumes are made of? We’ll tell you. 

  1. Carbon Monoxides: CO. this is a very odorless and colorless gas that causes nausea, vomiting, intense headaches and eventually leads to death. Why? Its pretty simple really. The oxygen we all take fo0r granted and some pay huge hospital fees for is actually the problem. Carbon Monoxide is unstable in that form, so it would rather make use of the oxygen you have in your system to form more stable compounds. So, this gas basically chokes your cells from inside. But not to worry, if you inhale it in large quantities, you will definitely feel it. So, if you are alive and able to read this, that means you’re probably still safe.

    Generator fumes and air pollution
    The generator life
  2. Carbon Dioxide: well, this isn’t immediately as deadly as the brother carbon monoxide. However, too much of carbon dioxide is inherently deadly.

Okay, so that’s just between wake-up time and let’s say when most people leave for work or school. Then you leave your house and you are hit with the stench of the overflowing trash that wasn’t picked up at the right time. Well, the stench is probably just some methane and Hydrogen Sulfate from rotting food waste or dead rats. Hydrogen sulfide or H2S isn’t very harmful in small quantities, but if you are continuously exposed you could get irritation of the olfactory system. That’s your nose and throat. And maybe some loss of appetite. Before you can get serious health issues from this you will be exposed to concentrated levels over a prolonged period.

traffic and air pollution in ketu
Heavy Lagos traffic

Then you get in your car, and hopefully you can wind up and enjoy your air conditioning, well have a swell day, (that’s if you have enough gas to transport you for the day) but you might still have the occasional seep of fumes into your car.

Now, for those who have to take a bus, well… what can we say? There are a lot of public buses and especially trucks expelling thick black fumes. All these we get to inhale off and on all the while you are in traffic. Now if you have the luck of passing through a landfill area then you’d be subjected to a mix of traffic + air pollution.

The worst situation is when you are actually in a bus that emits smoke into the vehicle or you’re directly behind a bus that emits smoke into yours. Having to inhale vehicle fumes for no less than 30 minutes inside a bus exposes you to a world of toxicity. A good example is exhaust from diesel engines which are graded as class one carcinogens. The diesel generators at work also waiting and exposure to this is way longer than the exhaust fumes on the road.

Effects Of Long Term Exposure To Air Pollution, Basically A Situation Of Traffic + Air Pollution

So, as much as these pollutants have become a part of everyday life, on the long run they could be quite detrimental to our health.

  1. mortality,
  2. worsening asthma,
  3. chronic bronchitis,
  4. respiratory tract infection
  5. ischaemic
  6. heart disease
  7. stroke


Effects of Long-term Exposure to Diesel fumes

  • Irritation of the eyes and nose
  • Lung problems
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea


Most of the tests were carried out on animals and they got these results. Imagine the effect on the average Lagosian who is stressed, under-nourished and for the most part unhealthy? And just in case there was any doubts in our minds, there was evidence that over time these effects affect the airways, (stuffy nose) and increase the possibility of allergies.

What do you do to escape Lagos wahala? We highly recommend taking some time off for fresh air at the beach or even a trip to a less populated place. Remember, health is wealth. And we love Lagos too.

Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Don’t forget to check back here for ways to stay safe admist the terrible Lagos traffic and pollution.