FUTA don wins international grants for research on demerit of face masks

JUST as COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact negatively on nations of the world, the Federal University of Technology (FUTA), Akure, has recorded a feat through one of its senior academics, Dr Gideon Idowu of the Department of Chemistry.

Dr Idowu won two international grants for research projects seeking to investigate the Ecological Impact of COVID-19 Prevention Strategies: Fate and Impact of Medical Face Masks on Soil Ecosystem.

The awards are from the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), United Kingdom and the Natural Environment Research Council-British Ecological Society (NERC-BES), United Kingdom.

The spokesman of the institution,  Adegbenro Adebanjo, made this disclosure.

According to him, the funds would cover the cost of equipment, consumables, logistics and literature for the projects.

Programme Manager, Grants, Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC), Mr Yuandi Li who conveyed the letter of his society to Dr Idowu, wrote: “following assessment by our reviewers, I am pleased to inform you that your application has been successful.”

Similarly, Grants and Events Officer, British Ecological Society (BES), Siri McDonnell, on behalf of the society, said the project was excellent and timely with international implications.

He stressed that it was extremely timely in terms of both the pandemic situation and micro-plastics pollution.

“This project should contribute to a broader understanding of the impacts of face masks on the soil ecosystem. During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it is vital to have an understanding of such impacts as this will contribute to the development of strategies for dealing with vast numbers of disposable face masks and how they should be disposed of safely,” McDonnell said.

According to McDonnell, aside from the grant, Dr Idowu will also receive 12- month free BES membership with all its benefits.

Congratulating Dr Idowu, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Joseph Fuwape, described the grants as a plus to FUTA, as well as confirmed the institution as a leading Nigerian university of technology with a bias for cutting edge relevant research.

He commended him and several others who had won grants in the past for not relenting in making the university relevant globally in spite of the challenges facing the education sector in the country.

He expressed optimism that the fight against COVID-19 would soon be won, and urged Nigerians to always take to the preventive cautions against its spread.

According to Dr Idowu, the research seeks to understand the environmental impacts of medical face masks which are now widespread in the environment.

“These masks are meant primarily for healthcare workers for protection against occupational hazards. However, following the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) and the recommendation of face masks use for the generality of population, there has been an unprecedented global rise in their production by over 700-folds.

“While their use may have proved effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19, the possible ecological consequences have been largely overlooked. This proposed research would form part of initial scientific investigations into this issue, particularly as it affects the soil ecosystem under our prevailing tropical conditions,” Idowu said.


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