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B.A. Njoku
Department of Chemistry, Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri

This work focuses on the application of the knowledge of chemistry education to the solution of environmental pollution in Owerri Municipal council area of Imo State. Four - itemed structured opinionnaire and six - itemed structured interview questions were used to collect data from the five hundred and eighty four workers of Ministry of Petroleum and Environment (MPE) and Environmental Transformation Committee (ENTRACO). The analysis showed that the knowledge of chemistry education is highly required to proffer solution to the problem of environmental pollution, but regrettably these two agencies MPE and ENTRACO do not have education chemistry graduates in their employment neither do they have functional laboratories  or facilities for treatment and recycling of wastes  into useful products. The only mode of disposal of wastes by these agencies is dumping into landfills and this method constitutes more pollution. Education chemistry graduates should be employed by environmental agencies to help ease unemployment and also to help treat and recycle wastes into useful products such as biogas and bio-fuel which are alternative renewable energy sources.

Keywords: Pollution, chemistry education,wastes,  renewable energy.


Environment is the sum of the surrounding external conditions within which on organism, a community or on object exists (Draft copy of Lagos Environmental Protection Act, 1985). Made simpler the environment is the natural world in which man, animals and plants live. Pollution is the destruction of purity of the environment. Environmental pollution is a threat to the biosphere. It is caused by human activities such as urbanization and industrialization. These activities generate gaseous, liquid and solid wastes that pollute and degrade the environment, land, soil, water and air. Environmental pollution by various industries is a socio economic problem Pollution is closely related to economic growth and production activities.

 Owerri municipal council area of Imo State is environmentally polluted and degraded, what with the despicable state of the Nworie river which has served as the dump for all sorts of solid and liquid wastes and the mountainous heaps of solid refuse on major roads, streets, houses and market places within the municipally. The Nworie and Otamiri  rivers are the principal sources  of municipal  water supply. Indiscriminate dumping of faeces in these rivers causes the spread of diseases (Nwankwo, 2004).

The National Policy on Education (NPE, 2004) emphasise the acquisition of appropriate skills, abilities and competences both mental and physical as equipment for the individual to live in and contribute to the development of his society. Chemistry is the study of the composition and transformation of matter. The knowledge of chemistry is a prerequisite for medicine, pharmacy, engineering, geology, technology, agriculture, metallurgy and even computer. According to the Wikipedia (2008), chemical education is a comprehensive term referring to topics related to the study of the teaching and learning of chemistry in schools, colleges and universities. Topics in chemistry education include understanding how students learn chemistry, how best to teach chemistry and improved methods and appropriate training of chemistry teachers through classroom lectures, demonstrations and laboratory activities. Thus education chemistry graduates can be gainfully employed in environmental protection agencies where they can apply their knowledge to the solution of environmental pollution. The study is about the application of the knowledge of chemistry to the solution of environmental pollution in Owerri municipal Council area of Imo State.

Statement of problem

The agencies involved with environmental protection in Imo State include the Environmental Transformation Committee (ENTRACO), the Ministry of Petroleum and Environment (MPE) and the Clean and Green initiative of the Ohakim Government. Despite these bodies, the problem of environmental pollution in Owerri Municipal council area seems insurmountable. Could it be that these agencies do not have education chemistry graduates in their employment to manage and dispose the wastes generated within the municipality? This study attempts to ascertain the application of the knowledge of Chemists to the solution of environmental pollution in the municipality. The study highlights the need to utilize education chemistry graduates and chemistry laboratories to the solution of environmental pollution and degradation and thereby ease the problem of unemployment of graduates of tertiary institution.

Purpose of study
This study is on the application of the knowledge of chemistry education to the solution of environmental pollution.  Specifically the work will ascertain:

  1. Whether the knowledge of chemistry education helps to solve the problem of environmental pollution.
  2. the number and roles of the education chemistry graduates employed by the environmental agencies within the
  3. municipality to combat environmental pollution.
  4. the number of functional chemistry laboratories available for the treatment of wastes and refuse and the chemical analyses that are carried out  in these laboratories.
  1. the mode of waste disposal within the municipality.

Research questions
To guide this study the following research questions were formulated:
Is the knowledge of chemistry education relevant to the solution of environmental pollution? How many education chemistry graduates are presently under the employment of the environmental agencies? Do these agencies own functional laboratories for analysis and     treatment of wastes?. What is the method of waste disposal within the municipality?

This is a case study which focused on the utilization of the knowledge of education chemistry and functional chemistry laboratories for tackling environmental pollution and treatment of wastes before disposal to the system in Owerri Municipal Council Area of Imo State of Nigeria. The entire population of the study comprising the entire workers in the state Ministry of Petroleum and Environment (MPE) and Environmental Transformation Committee (ENTRACO) constitute the sample of the study as shown in Table 1 below. The sampling was purposive as all the workers were chosen.

Table : 1Environmental agencies and number of workers.

Agency                                                                  Number of workers

Ministry of Petroleum and Environment  (MPE)               72
Environmental Transformation Committee (ENTRACO)  512

Total                                                                                 584

Four –itemed opinionnaire and six structured interview questions were used to elicit responses and answers that constituted the data for the study. Also physical inspection and examination of facilities and records of the agencies were made. Several pilot studies were made to strengthen the reliability of the instrument which was tested using the test-retest technique  The opinionnnaïre and structured interview questions were administered face to face to the workers

who responded: Strongly Agreed (5), Agreed (4), Disagreed (3) ¸Strongly Disagreed (2), Undecided (1) on a Likert   type scale and also answered the questions.

The mean of the responses were calculated and means ≥3 were accepted whereas means < 3 were rejected. Recorded anwers to the structured questions were summarized and quantified in percentages of the entire sample of the study.

Results and discussions
Table 2 shows the responses regarding the relevance of the knowledge of chemistry education to the solution of environmental pollution within Owerri Municipal Council Area. From Table 2, all
the opinions have means greater than 3.0 and are therefore accepted by respondents who areworkers in Ministry of Petroleum and Energy (MPE) and Environmental Transformation

Committee (ENTRACO). The knowledge of chemistry is needed for the solution of problems of environmental pollution. Chemists, Chemical Analysts, Biochemists and Chemical Engineers can be employed to separate the different types of wastes, treat, analyse and recycle the wastes to   produce different materials like plastics, bottles, paper, biogas and organic fertilizers among others thereby enhancing aesthetic beauty of the roads, streets, markets and homes.  Indeed indiscriminate  dumping of refuse has thwarted the visual image and aesthetics quality of the environment (Population Reference Bureau, 2005).  Biogas from wastes is a renewable and alternative energy   source. Possibility of biogas production from wastes will reduce the burning of fossil fuels for bulk power generation. The burning of fossil fuels to provide energy has been the major cause of environmental pollution and global climatic warming now seen as the earth’s greatest enemy.

Table 2: Responses regarding the relevance of chemistry education to the solution of environment pollution

Opinionnaire                                                            Mean                   Remarks

The knowledge of chemistry
is relevant to the solution of
environment pollution.                                                                         3.61                Accepted

The problem of environmental pollution
cannot be effectively solved without
making use of chemical analysts.                                                3.51                           Accepted
Environmental pollution can be
controlled if the wastes are
analysed and treated by chemists .                                              3.58                     Accepted

Wastes can be separated  and
recycled by  chemists in the
organizations.                                                                              4.5                       Accepted

Organic wastes can be centrally
collected  and converted into
biogas for fuel /energy by
chemists.                                                               4.5                       Accepted

The agencies (MPE, ENTRACO)
have functional  chemistry
laboratories for waste treatment
and recycling.                                                                             1.02                   Rejected

Waste products of industrialised society can be used to provide energy for electric power. It has beenestimated that 50-60% of urban wastes is combustible (Okafor, 2009). Science has proved that potential exists for burning some millions tons of wastes products each year and using the heat to produce steam for driving small steam turbines in order to produce electric power. Palm kernel and fibre wastes have been sources of energy for cooking in our rural communities. The amount of heat
derivable from the burning of palm kernel waste is appreciable and such wastes can be used as fuel for boilers in steam turbines plants.

On the question of the number of education chemists presently under the employment of MPE and ENTRACO, responses to the structured questions show that there are no chemistry graduates employed by these agencies. This implies that roles that should be performed by chemistry graduates are not done, that is chemistry graduates play no role in solving the problems of environmental pollution in the municipality. Chemistry graduates should be employed in these agencies to ease the problem of unemployment.  With their knowledge, wastes which otherwise would contribute to environmental hazards would be converted into energy source (Nnokwe & Ibekwe, 2009). Biogas technology is an alternative energy source and a way of solving problems of environmental pollution from industrial and domestic wastes.

From the responses on opinionnaire items on Table 2, the question of functional laboratories has a mean of 1.02 which is rejected, that is, there are no chemistry laboratories owed by these agencies
for analysis and treatment of wastes before disposal. Reponses to the structured questions and inspection of the premises of the agencies show that MPE and ENTRACO have no chemical laboratories and so no analyses or treatment of wastes are carried out before disposal.  Laboratories should be built for the treatment and recycling of wastes by wastes disposal agencies. In such a laboratory experiment, Ofoefulu, Eme & Uzodinma, (2009) compared the biogas production from cassava peels treated with different chemicals and found


that biogas yield from cassava peels can be enhanced by chemical treatment. The fact that fossil fuels produce harmful emissions in engines, contain sulphur which produces sulphurous oxides responsible for acid rain, emit  carbon (iv) oxide which gives green house  gases and depletion of the stratospheric ozone layer that shields the earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation  necessitated the development of other alternatives such as bio-fuel.  Also Nnokwe & Ibekwe (2009) showed that kitchen wastes which otherwise may have contributed to pollution in the environment could be converted into an environmentally friendly source of energy. Production of such renewable energy sources can only be aided by the application of knowledge of chemistry and other applied sciences.

All the workers of agencies declared that the mode of waste disposal within the municipality is by depositing the waste into landfills sites located near mechanic village along Aba-Owerri Road and other landfills sites along Owerri- Onitsha road. It is a well known fact that leachate   from municipal solid waste dumps pollutes river water through run – offs and ground water through percolation. Anaerobic conditions may set in resulting in odour, bad taste and bacterial proliferation (DOE, 1974). A treatment strategy for the municipal solid wastes is necessary and application of the knowledge of chemistry is needed.

Chemistry education graduates are not currently employed in the environmental agencies in Owerri municipal council area of Imo State to help recycle and treat the enormous wastes generated in this area. Chemistry graduates should be employed in these agencies to help solve the problem of unemployment of graduates in Imo State. Chemistry laboratories should be established by these agencies. In such laboratories wastes could be recycled and converted into alternative renewable energy sources which are clean-burning, easily storable and transportable fuels and thereby solve the problems of environmental pollution in the municipality. Wastes should not just be disposed by dumping them into landfills as presently done in the municipality, but a treatment strategy is necessary to avoid leachate from wastes dumps into municipal water supplies.

National Policy on Education. (NPE 2004). Yaba:Lagos NERC, Federal ministry of Education. 

Department of Environment (DOE) (1974) Pollution of water by tipped
refuse; Report of the  Technical Committee on Experimental Disposal of house refuse in wet and  dry pits, London: HMSO.

Draft copy of Lagos State Environmental protection Act (1985).

Nnokwe .J. C. and Ibekwe (2009).Biogas production from kitchen waste (a crushed mixture of yam peels, ripe- plantain peels and beans coats).FUTO Alterative Energy. International  conference on renewable and alternative  energy. Conference Paper. Unpublished.

Nwankwo, B.O .(2004). Environmental sanitation and health. Owerri: Chery Bren & Co Publishers.

Ofoefule, A.U, Eme, E.L. and Uzodinma E.O. (2009).Comparative study of  the effect of chemical treatment on cassava (Manihot utissima) peels for biogas production. FUTO Alternative Energy International conference on renewable and alternative energy. Conference Paper.

Okafor, E. N. C. (2009). Distributed power generation: A way forward to  Nigeria Electrical power system: FUTO Alternative Energy. International conference on renewable and alternative energy.               Conference paper. Unpublished.

Population Reference Bureau (2005).Critical link; population, health
and environment ,Population Bulletin 58 (3), 3 & 4.

Wikipedia (2008).Org/wiki/ chemistry education http;//en.