Sniper insecticide, marketed by Swiss-Nigeria Chemical Company, is a very popular brand in Nigeria and has come to be known as the most effective in driving away insects, including mosquitoes, cockroaches and more.
However, on the bottle, it is clearly written that it is meant for outdoor use (on farms or greenhouses) and should be mixed with water to reduce the concentration.
Sniper belongs to the DDVP chemical family, (dichlorvos) 2, 2-dichlorovinyl dimethyl phosphate compound. Although, there are lots of insecticides that contain DDVP chemical, but Sniper insecticide seems to be the most abused and overused, since people do not read the instruction before using it.
It has been observed that people would rather use Sniper than other well established brands of insecticides because of its supposed effectiveness, the price and their ignorance of the health dangers. A bottle of sniper now goes for about N500 while an actual insecticide goes for about N600 to N800.
But experts have condemned the use of Sniper in the house and painted the grave consequence of inhaling the product into the human body.
On the other hand it has been suggested that if Nigerians insist on using the product, it should be mixed with water, as directed for the usage of the product on the bottle. Although the purpose of using Sniper determines the amount of water it would be diluted with, it is advisable that users read the instructions on the bottle.
A medical practitioner at the Federal Medical Centre, Ido-Ekiti, Dr. Seun Raiyemo, said symptoms of exposure to dichlorvos includes weakness, headache, tightness in chest, blurred vision, salivation, sweating, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, eye and skin irritation.
“It shouldn’t be inhaled at all, effects could range from common cold, cough, respiratory difficulties and in later life, lung cancer”
He added that exposure to Sniper may also cause eye pain, runny nose, wheezing, laryngospasm (a brief contraction of the vocal cords that temporarily makes it difficult to speak or breathe), cyanosis (a bluish discoloration of the skin resulting from poor circulation or inadequate oxygenation of the blood), convulsions and so on.
A surgeon who specialises in head and neck at Obafemi Awolowo Teaching Hospital Complex, Dr. Adekunle Adeyemo, told The Point that any form of insecticide is injurious to humans and that none is free of risk.
According to him, part of the risk is that chemicals in the insecticides are irritants and they can irritate the airways which can trigger bronchioconstrictions (asthmatic attacks).
Adeyemo concluded that “the ingredient in the product could be absorbed either by inhalation or by contaminating food and drinks leading to systemic toxicities, manifesting as abnormal heart rates, disturbance of gastrointestinal motility, excessive salivation, muscular spasm and in the extreme, death”.
A medical practitioner at Eleta Eye Institute, Ibadan, Dr. Tolu Agbana, said Sniper is a fumigant and it is not supposed to be inhaled at all, because it has both long and short term effects in the body.
Short term effects, according to him, may range from common cold, cough, respiratory difficulties, and damage in the lungs, which later may result to lung cancer, which is a long term effect of long exposure to sniper.
“It shouldn’t be inhaled at all, effects could range from common cold, cough, respiratory difficulties and in later life, a lung cancer,” he said. The damage Sniper does to the body depends on the amount and duration of exposure to the product, he concluded.
A professor of public health pathology, Professor Sam Wobo, said that the use of Sniper in the public health sector is mainly for pest control, and it is used for pest like cockroach, insects and reptiles.
“We use it is mainly for pest control in the house, pest like cockroach, insects and all this creeping reptiles, it kills instantly and the smell is such that whether snakes, lizard inhales it within the space of five minutes, they die,” he said.
He added that there are two ways Sniper can be used in the house, one is to dilute it in water and spray or diluted in water and sprinkled.
“When you sprinkle it, you must make sure that you leave the house and you don’t come back until about 6 hours, within that period, the powerful odour would have subsided to the level where it becomes tolerable for a human being, because if you spray and stay within that environment it affects you as a human too,” he concluded.