Friday, July 26, 2019 9:11 pm
When Olanike Salami, now Adeyemo, was born that rainy day of Friday July 17, 1970 to the family of late Alhaji Moshood Akanni Salami, nobody could have guessed that that bundle of joy would be delivering her inaugural lecture as a Professor of Veterinary Medicine, University of Ibadan, UI, on Thursday July 25, 2019, some 49 years after.
Professor Olanike Adeyemo, who hails from Iseyin, Oyo State, the first of many firsts, including the first female Professor in the Department of Veterinary Public Health and Preventive Medicine, the first female Head of her Department, and the first Deputy Vice Chancellor, DVC, Research, Innovative and Strategic Partnerships, RISP, faced a mammoth crowd at the Lakeside Lecture Theatre, Faculty of Science of the institution to deliver her lecture titled, “Environmental, Animal and Human Health: The Three-Braided Cord for a Public Health Veterinarian”.
The Inaugural lecture, which is the 461st in the institution, the 41st from the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and the 5th from the Department of Veterinary Public Health and Preventive Medicine, had in attendance principal officers of the institution, family and friends including her mother, Mrs Modupeola Wuraola Salami, her mother-in-law, Mrs Damilola Akinlotan, Abiodun Adeyemo, a pharmacist, whom she described as her “BFF and SH” of over 29 years and husband of 23 years as well as a faithful, supportive, loving and committed father, her children, Temiloluwa, Mosimiloluwa and Mofeyifoluwa and her personal driver turned family, Mr Abiodun Adegoke, her supervisor from undergraduate to PhD, Professor Samuel Adewumi Agbede.
Delivering her lecture, Adeyemo stated that she passionately chose her path in Veterinary Public Health because of its vantage and dynamic role in environmental, livestock, wildlife and human health. She noted that she wanted her PhD to sail in uncharted waters and after an extensive literature search, she discovered that leaded fuel, which had been banned in most countries of the world, was still in use in Nigeria, for which she was inquisitive to know its effects on the society. “Thus, began my voyage into how human activities affect the environment, and how it in turn, affect wildlife, livestock and humans. This phenomenon became popularly referred to as ‘One Health’”, she stated.
Lauding the effort of her supervisor, Adeyemo professed, “I am fortunate to have had the privilege of sound mentorship from my academic father now turned all-round father, Professor S. A. Agbede. I fondly remember how frustrated he was that I lacked “the patience required to be a researcher” and gave me a fatherly advice to consider opening a supermarket or boutique instead of becoming an academic. I hope I have been able to convince him over time that I have grown from that researcher who lacked the ‘patience to be a researcher’ into a researcher without borders. My lack of patience is now towards a world that is not interested in ‘One Health’. I will use this inaugural opportunity to advantage in ensuring that many more of the indifferent people of the world are brought into the fold of those who desire to understand and propagate the knowledge of how human activities affect the health of the world we live in. I confess that this is the new colour of my ‘impatience’”.
Linking her research to the Biblical Trinity, the don stated that the Three-Braided Cord Model reflects the central image of the Trinity in at least a couple of ways: It is a clear picture of the strength that comes from the teaming together of two or three persons; it represents not only an effective team but also a team that has more than one person to share the satisfaction of accomplished work and goals. Thus, for her lecture, the Three-Braided Cord is being used to depict human, animal and environmental health adding, “I will be providing evidence that an interdisciplinary “One Health Approach” involving human, animal and environmental health partners, amongst others, is critical to addressing public health issues, including emerging infectious diseases, population and indeed, other transboundary issues, which most often do not have regards for geographic boundaries”.
According to her, Veterinary public health impacts on human health by reducing exposure to hazards arising from animals, animal products, and their environment. Examples of these hazards include zoonoses, vector borne infections and other communicable diseases, chemicals and drugs used in animals, envenomation, and injuries from exposure to animals. She noted that throughout the world, human use of water, and bad planning have led to drier and polluted rivers, lakes and groundwater resources with dramatic effects on the natural ecosystems and that disposal and management of wastes in Nigeria present serious environmental problems. She noted that the usual methods of waste disposal in the country including land filling, dumpsites, land spreads, water disposal and incineration has serious environmental implications because of their potential to pollutes and contaminate underground and surface water bodies in the country.
She stated, “Human activities involving urbanization, agricultural development, overuse of fertilizers, inadequate management of land use and waste disposal can affect the quality of water and make it unfit for both aquaculture and domestic purposes. Thus, overexploitation and its attendant pollution is threatening to freshwater and other aquatic ecosystems health. Major cities in Nigeria face serious water pollution crises, in which lack of environmental control of water-dependent activities play an important part”.
Adeyemo, therefore, explained four major sources of pollution on which she had conducted extensive researches over the years: Industrial Effluents, Lead Pollution, Abattoir Effluents and Crude Oil Pollution. On industrial effluents, according to Adeyemo, from a series of studies to determine the status of aquatic bodies in Nigeria, it was observed that freshwater ecosystems in the country are subject to various pressures from human activities. “It was concluded that Nigeria has several small, medium, and large industrial plants and factories; all these use chemical products, generally in toxic quantities in the production process. These plants and factories fail to recycle waste and lack treatment facilities and so, usually discharge effluents directly into the watercourse at the expense of aquatic life and water quality. Nigeria’s aquatic ecosystems are currently under threat of localised or widespread physical, organic, and biological pollution”, she affirmed.
Adeyemo noted that human activities in Nigeria are not limited to large scale industrial activities alone pointing out, “During the processing of cassava, large amount of cyanoglucosides (cyanides) are released into the environment. Despite the small scale of operation, cassava production in Nigeria is highly commercialised, with as much as 45 percent of the total output marketed. The principal routes of occupational exposure to cyanides is inhalation and to a lesser degree, skin absorption; and target population are mainly women and children. Cassava processing, especially in areas where the industry is highly concentrated, is a source of pollution and health hazard to the flora and fauna. Inhaled or percutaneously absorbed hydrogen cyanide passes immediately into the systematic circulation”. She also noted that high levels of cyanide have been found in natural water sources near large scale cassava processing facilities in Nigeria adding, negative effects can be expected on local agriculture and sensitive stages of fish and crustacean populations in receiving water bodies.
Pointing out that another pertinent environmental pollution from industrial source is from aqua culture, the scholar explained that the geometric rise in aquaculture production and their attendant disease occurrence has led to uncontrollable use of antimicrobials and chemicals to prevent and/or treat diseases. “Most of the chemicals in circulation including Malachite Green, Copper Sulphate, Formalin, Potassium per manganate have either been banned or are not approved for use in food fish”, she revealed.
On Lead Pollution, Adeyemo noted that lead in the environment will end up in aquatic systems through run-offs adding that lead can also be bioaccumulated in the food chain, thereby posing serious problems for fauna and humans. As part of her PhD project, which was to determine the extent of lead pollution of surface water in Ibadan metropolis and environs, she was able to conclude that lead pollution was of hazardous proportion.
On Abattoir effluents, she pointed out that livestock production, which is perceived by the public to be potential food for the world’s needy people, is a major pollutant of the countryside where they are raised and cities, if processors do not manage slaughter wastes properly with dung and slurry washed into water ways. “Abattoir operations produce a characteristically highly organic waste with relatively high levels of suspended solid, liquid and fat. The solid waste includes condemned meat, undigested ingesta, bones, horns, hairs, and aborted foetuses. Most abattoirs in Nigeria have no facilities for waste treatment. Wastes are either disposed of at open dumps or are discharged into nearby streams, hence constituting an environmental menace. The risk of epidemics, water contamination and pollution, annihilation of biotic life, global warming and soil degradation by waste materials are real problems confronting developing countries where issues concerning waste management have been grossly neglected”, she explained. She stressed that abattoirs receiving surface water during and after slaughtering does not meet international standard and are unfit for meat processing adding that the current method of waste disposal at abattoirs greatly reduces the quality of the surrounding environment and portends a risk to public health and food safety.
On crude oil production, from her research in the Niger Delta Area of Nigeria, Adeyemo noted that oil pollution from exploration and production processes, natural seeps, atmospheric contribution, freight accidents, industrial discharge and urban run-off is a significant hazard for the marine environment and humans. This has significant implications for the flora and fauna and the biodiversity of an aquatic system, especially the early life stages. “The harmful effects of oil spills on wide life have been documented; oil kills plants and animals in the estuarine zone, settles on beaches and kills organisms that live there; it also settles on ocean floor and kills benthic (bottom dwelling) organisms such as crabs and disrupt major food chains. It also covers birds, impairing their flight or reducing the insulative property of their feathers. Oil endangers fish hatcheries in coastal waters and contaminates the flesh of commercially valuable fish”, she pointed out.
Adeyemo also noted that gas flaring can have potentially harmful effects on the health and the livelihood of the human communities in their vicinity, as they release a variety of poisonous chemicals. According to her, humans exposed to such substances can suffer from a variety of respiratory problems, which have been reported among many children in the Niger Delta, which have apparently gone uninvestigated, adding, “Flares located close to local communities portends a high public health risk”. She noted that Nigeria flares more natural gas associated with oil extraction than any other country on the planet, with estimates suggesting that 3.5billion cubic feet of associated gas is produced annually, of which 2.5billion cubic feet, or about 70 percent, is wasted via flaring. Along with inefficiency of gas flaring, another problem which gas flaring poses is the release of large amount of methane, which has very high global warming potential, according to her.
Adeyemo also stated that her researches have demonstrated a positive link between the presence of lead in freshwater, sediments or food organisms and the onset of sub-lethal effects characterize by neurological defects, kidney dysfunction, endocrine disruption, reproductive and developmental defects, behavioural abnormalities, and anaemia in aquatic fauna. “I find that evaluating pollution effects on fish is important for both environmental protection and socio-economic reasons. However, most of the time, effects are not appreciated unless there is mortality”, she lamented.
She noted that the flora, fauna, microorganisms, aquatic and climatic systems, and other elements that constitute the environment including human beings, are not restricted to geographical boundaries as they often crossed the political boundaries between nations. She said when this happens, the issues of shared concern that arise from the communal space, resource, system, or migratory species are referred to as “transboundary” and the dramatic emergence and spread of zoonotic diseases and wide spread pollution and depletion, especially of water resources require holistic, collaborative strategies to strengthen the collective capacity to meet this challenges. “Infections with pandemic potential zoonotic diseases (SARS-severe acute respiratory syndrome, avian influenza, West Nile encephalitis, Lyme disease, echinococosis, anthrax), water toxicity due to pathogens, pesticides and chemicals, and more insidious infections such as human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV) and multi-drug resistance tuberculosis are examples of how health issues quickly become worldwide concerns”, she illustrated.
Advocating for a ‘One Health’ approach, Adeyemo stated that in recent years, many factors, most notably concern about emerging infectious diseases, have contributed to an increasing appreciation of the interdependency of human, animal and ecosystem health worldwide. Thus, integrated global approaches to improve the health of humans, animals and their shared environment are proven to be in the best interest of many countries. “The link between human and animal populations, and with the surrounding environment, is particularly close in developing regions where animals provide transportation, draught power, fuel, clothing as well as proteins (meat, eggs and milk). A comprehensive approach – the One Health Approach – is needed to deal with the complexities of changing disease landscape. This approach gives greater emphasis to agro-ecological resilience, the protection of biodiversity, the efficient use of natural resources and the safety of food supply chains particularly in areas worst afflicted by poverty and animal disease. Speeding up response time, by early detection and reaction, including at the driver level, is essential. Multidisciplinary teams comprising all those who contribute to the treatment, control, and prevention of diseases of animal origin are essential, not only to determine the source of disease, but also to assess the risk of further outbreaks and to make recommendations for future control”, she advised.
Concluding the lecture, within the context of the Three-Braided Cord of environmental, animal and human health, Adeyemo recommended circumspection in waste generation, accumulation, management and primary disposal practices at every level, which should be backed by the government with awareness programmes to promote environmentally friendly behaviour, sustainable eco-friendly waste management instruments, strictly enforced policies and incentives mechanisms, including Pay-as-you-throw and extended producer responsibility policies.
She further recommended the protection of water quality and aquatic eco-system as a vulnerable resource; a One Health strategic plan at every level of government; restructuring of traditional governmental silos through the establishment of formal governance structure; collaboration between environmental, animal and human health government sectors by sharing data, best practice and innovation; and developing postgraduate “One Health” programme with interdisciplinary focus featuring environmental, animal and human health, and other tangential disciplines for the development of a crop of professionals with the “One Health” mind-set.
Summarising her research endeavour in the university, Adeyemo said, “In an increasingly interdependent world, my research is focused on aquatic and wildlife epidemiology, toxicology, food safety and global public health. I have developed and validated assays for in vivo evaluation of genes as biomarkers of environmental pollution and contamination. I have also developed and applied both analytical and bio-analytical techniques to environmental and public health issues; including research into the interplay of ecotoxicology with aquatic and wildlife borne emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, and the implications for global public health and environmental justice within community-based research framework. I have therefore being developing and validating epidemiological procedures for diseases at the environment-wildlife- livestock-human interface with regulatory and public health implication”.