By Ogbonnaya M Akoma
By the provisions of the Public Health Law of 1963, Laws of Eastern Nigeria that is still applicable today, all apartments meant for human habitation should have through- or cross-ventilation while the window space of any room should not be less than one-eight of the floor space of that room in order to make room for proper ventilation. On the other hand, every standard room should be occupied by not more than two and a half persons to avoid over-crowding. These stipulated provisions of the law were all aimed at ensuring that the health of every occupier of every apartment was protected and that such an occupier would not contract any of the communicable diseases associated with the habitation and/or occupation of any place.
The same thing obtained in the other two regional governments of the North and West. Their own public health laws contained similar provisions; and in order to enforce those provisions, a group of health personnel called sanitary inspectors (now known as environmental health officers) emerged throughout the regional governments and did all that was necessary to enforce the law, including making sure that no apartment meant for human habitation was ill-ventilated. To that end, all building plans were professionally scrutinised with regard to proper ventilation and waste disposal before approval was given for the commencement of the building of such structures hence, till today, all building plans pass through the Works Department, the Planning Authority and Public Health Department for scrutiny and due approval before the construction of such building goes on.
However, unlike what obtained in all parts of Nigeria in those days with regard to the enforcement of the law on ventilation, nothing seems to be done in this regard these days, and the situation degenerates with the passage of each day. Today, few apartments are properly ventilated. In these apartments, freshness of air that the occupiers should have and inhale to sustain their well-being is no longer guaranteed as where they live contain neither through- nor cross-ventilation, just as the window spaces do not measure up to one-eight of the floor space of each room. In such places, enough fresh air does not circulate nor does vitiated air escape, thus the occupiers are always subjected to all the numerous diseases conditions associated with ill-ventilation and over-crowding such as nasal and catarrhal congestions, odour nuisance, nausea, dizziness, suffocating environment, fatigue, cough and headache, et cetera.
Ill-ventilated cases are even made worse these days by the presence of mosquitoes. It is an open secret today that in many living homes, the provided windows are permanently blocked and locked by the occupiers because such occupiers do not want to let in mosquitoes through opening the windows, thus they go ahead to deny themselves fresh air they direly need to sustain their well-being and live.
In all these cases, there are ways out. First, all dwelling places must have adequate window spaces to ensure proper ventilation. Second, the environmental health officers and all those who vet building plans must never fail to ensure that adequate provisions are made for proper ventilation in the building plans ditto those who build shops, sheds and workshops where people carry out daily businesses. No window should be permanently blocked or locked. Instead of doing that, the relevant wire gauzes and nets should be used to fly-proof living homes to avoid mosquito bites and those of other pests.
It is important to note that for the proper functioning of some internal organs of the body, every person needs certain amounts of fresh air always and denying those organs the quantity of fresh air they need or forcing these organs to use vitiated and spent air that should escape through the appropriate channels of escape will always result in ill-health and disease conditions which nobody likes.
Akoma (JP), is public health practitioner