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Why would anyone live under wires of death? (2)

About 40 years ago (1985), government descended on structures which it claimed were illegally constructed under NEPA (NERC – Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission)) high tension power lines right of way with bulldozers. About 40 years after the houses were pulled down, more buildings have sprung up under these lines of death, with people living in them and businesses going on as usual.

 Experts speak out loud and clear about the deadly implications of living under these wires as SIAKA MOMOHcontinues his report on this Nigerians’ resistance against good reasoning.

 In case anyone is in doubt about the arguments above, experts have confirmed that life is not safe under high tension power lines. This writer far back in 1985 sought the scientific explanations for the views expressed here from experts in electrical engineering. R.I. Salawu professor of electrical Engineering and head Department of Electrical Engineering, University of Lagos then, gave the following explanation. Said he, “Unlike cables used in homes or those buried which are covered with insulating materials (non conducting materials), the insulation for erected high tension transmission lines is the air around it. This air insulation can go down through a natural course and what follows is electrical charging of reinforcement in buildings and a consequent electric shock and loss of life.

 “Similarly, a continuous flow of water from lines to iron roofs or any iron object could result in electric shocks and ultimate death. How does this happen? Water conducts, so also is iron. Rain water is thus an electric current link between high tension lines and iron objects which if touched, shocks, and may result in death.”  

C.C. Okoro, PhD, a senior lecturer of the same department gave the same explanation. These dons further advanced that the humming from high voltage lines could cause breakdown of air particles (distortion) which in itself is environmental pollution. The don’s views are corroborated by a paper from the Lagos State ’s Ministry of Information, Sports, Youth and Social Development, written by one Mukaila Sogbamu. The paper says when electric current flows through a conductor, like metal wire, it creates an electric field with associated magnetic field around the wire. It explains: “It is like what we witness with a magnet – a magnet creates a field around itself within which it has effect. If a metal blade or nail is placed on a table, and a magnet bar brought closer to it, the point where the magnet causes the slightest movement of the nail is regarded as the outer limit of the field around the magnet. The greater the force of the magnet, the greater the field it creates around itself. So also it is with electricity.

 “With about 33,000 volts of electric current flowing through high tension wire, a large electric current – a large electric field is created in the vicinity. If any electric conductor, such as iron rod, metal or wet bamboo is brought within the electric field, it will result in current flow due to difference in potential.”

 The paper goes on to draw an analogy. It says  the aforementioned situation  is analogous to  the flow  of water  from a high point to a low  point, that the high tension lines  high potential  from which the electric field  originates is like the peak of a mountain from which a body of water takes its source. It says as the water flows from the lowest level, the ground, so does current flows to the ground which has zero potential. It went on to add that electric current flows through any electric conductor placed in its path the way water may wet any waterproof material placed in its path while moving from top to down. It goes on to conclude that this is where lies the basic danger of erecting an object or moving around underneath high tension electric wires…

 The Lagos State Government paper also cites some dons who discuss the danger those who live under high tension lines are exposed to. Their views corroborate the views of respondents this writer cited earlier.  Bola Awobamise, PhD, an electrical engineer and lecturer at the University of Lagos ( not sure if he is still there), is cited to have said any human being  underneath a high tension wire acts as a path of current  and is susceptible to being electrocuted. He is said to have added that animals have been known to have died as a result, and that the problem is more pronounced in the wet season, that lightening during the rains also helps to expand the electric field. The paper also cites him as saying, “Immediate death is also guaranteed if a high tension wire is damaged and falls on a house. This will result in electrification by direct contact and can cause fire or electrocution.” The Port Harcourt recent incidence corroborates this.

 The paper also cites S. Ogunbunmi, PhD, of the department of Physics University of Lagos, as saying “Since most of our houses are not insulated there is the danger of electrocution by induction.” By this is meant that a poorly constructed building can become a high equipotential surface, thus leading to electrocution with a whole building thus electrified. Ogunbunmi is said to have added that an ordinary touch of plug can cause electrocution. The paper also cites Ogunbunmi further as saying that all metallic cloth line placed under high tension wire becomes lethal as it is electrified and can cause death if touched.

 Corona discharge

The paper discusses what it refers to as corona discharge. It says a serious activity going on around high tension is what is referred to as corona discharge that it has to do with the ionization of air molecules found in the spaces between two or more wires. It likens this to what goes on when we boil water. It says when water is cold it feels good to the skin just like air but that when it is  boiled, at high temperature, the water molecules having acquired heal characteristics, escape as vapour. It concludes that the action  of electric field  and associated magnetic  field around high tension wires  on the air trapped in spaces between the wires  is similar to that of heat on water,  and that the ionized air molecules, like water vapour, can adversely  affect the skin, eyes or even lead to fire outbreak. This goes to explain the environmental pollution that Salawu and Okoro of the University of Lagos spoke about.

 Biological disorders

Bode Ogunleye, PhD of the Department of Radiation Biology and Radiotherapy, college of Medicine, University of Lagos, is cited to have said the linkage between magnetic and electric fields  around high tension wires vis-avis biological changes “is still hazy”. The paper however says that experiments carried out in Europe shows that there are differences in cardiac rhythm (pulses generated by heart beat) between subjects exposed to the electric field as opposed to those not exposed to it.

 The Lagos State document goes on to cite a published report of pilot studies on the effect of exposure to high tension wire in the Soviet Union . It says the report listed a number of neurological and cardiovascular disorders. The report is said to indicate reduced sperm count in the workers who regularly serviced the line that fewer children were born to high tension wire workers compared to other people. The report states that difference is found to increase with the number of years of exposure. The paper adds that in recent study, a relationship was found between overhead transmission line and childhood cancer, and that another study indicated a higher incidence of suicide in homes around high tension line relative to others.

The paper argues it is a great disservice for any government officials to continue to give approval for the construction of houses under overhead transmission lines, and that no activities, agriculture or commercial, should be allowed under these lines.

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