The Federal Government said the soot, currently being experienced in Port Harcourt and its environs, was caused by activities of illegal oil refiners, bunkers and burning of tyres.
Mr Peter Idabor, Director General of the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) disclosed this at the beginning of a Joint Activation and Drill Exercise in Port Harcourt, on Tuesday.
He further attributed the development to activities in abattoirs and kpo-fire (a slang used to describe illegal oil bunkering business ) operators who carry out their illicit activities at night.
“In Port Harcourt, there are over 100 abattoirs and many of these abattoirs use rubber tyres to roast animals while others burn them to extract copper wires.
“Another source of the soot is the heating of asphalt (used for roads) and burning of stolen petroleum products by security agencies.
Idabor said the Ministry of Environment and its affiliated bodies had already held several meetings with law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders to end the soot.
“We have agreed that instead of setting ablaze tankers caught with stolen petroleum product; that it is better to retire the crude oil back to the refineries and oil companies.
“We felt that rather than dispose the petroleum products into the environment that it is best to store them in refineries’’ he said.
Idabor said a committee, set up on the orders of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, had adopted the Harmonised Standard Operating Procedure to deal with recovered stolen petroleum products.
He said that soot particle was 2.5 micron in size that could only be seen through high-powered microscopic lens.
He said that the particles could not be prevented from entering homes and offices.
“The soot particle is then inhaled and after sometimes becomes an irritant and the individual starts coughing. After persistent cough, a wound is created inside the lungs.
Idabor said the Ministry of Environment was planning to hold one-day retreat in Port Harcourt on April 27 to address the challenges associated with this.
He said agencies under the ministry, Rivers Government, oil companies and members of the Armed Forces and other stakeholders would attend the retreat.
The NOSDRA boss advised residents to use nose mask to reduce impact of the soot on their health.