Background: The increasing use of electric generators in commercial settings is predicated on the erratic and inadequate power supply in Nigeria. Generators produce noise and gaseous emissions while in operation exposing users of this energy source to a variety of health hazards.
Objective: This study was therefore designed to assess the knowledge and perception of generator users towards the noise induced health hazards associated with generator use in two commercial communities in Ibadan.
Methods: A comparative cross sectional study was conducted in Agbowo (high generator use) and Ajibode (low generator use) areas of Ibadan. All 515 generator users in both communities (Agbowo: 304, Ajibode: 211) were surveyed. Information on socio-demographic characteristics, knowledge and perception were obtained with a pretested interviewer-administered questionnaire. The knowledge and perception scales were 17 and 8 respectively, with maximum score of 1 and minimum score of 0. Knowledge score of (9-17) and (0-8) were categorized as good and poor knowledge respectively, while perception score of (5-8) and (0-4) were categorized as positive and negative perception respectively. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and Chi-square test 5% level of significance.
Results: The mean age of respondents in Agbowo and Ajibode were 25.4±5.4 and 24.8±5.8 years respectively. The mean knowledge and perception score was 11.4±4.9 and 4.3±2.1 in Agbowo as compared to 13.9±3.8 and 4.1±2.2 in Ajibode (p<0.05). A higher proportion of generator users in Agbowo had good knowledge (53.3%) as compared to those in Ajibode (44.5%). Majority of respondents in both commercial areas, (Agbowo: 82.9% and Ajibode: 86.7%) admitted that sound from an electric generator was a noise source capable of inducing hearing impairment, but none were aware of the sound level that could cause it. The proportion of respondents with negative perception were 51.3% and 82% in Agbowo and Ajibode respectively (p<0.05). Few respondents (Agbowo: 7.7%; Ajibode: 5.0%) perceived noise induced hearing impairment as a serious health problem as compared to other health conditions. Although 80.3% and 26.1% in Agbowo and Ajibode respectively perceived their workplace to be noisy (p<0.05), only 11.5% and 6.6% desired to change occupation.
Conclusions: Despite the good knowledge observed in Agbowo and Ajibode, none were aware of sound levels detrimental to their health. The insidous nature of noise on hearing further compounds this problem as individuals are unaware until a large threshold shift (hearing loss) has occurred. Hence there is need for increased awareness on the hazards associated with generator use while access to steady power supply is being advocated.