Develop strategies to reduce air pollution

Develop strategies, reduce air pollution, KCCA, WHO, cities, Kampala

Yesterday’s Daily Monitor reported that air pollution levels in Uganda have exceeded the World Health Organization (WHO) limit (see: “Alarm as air pollution levels exceed WHO limit).

Emerging evidence has linked the smog horizons seen in several cities across the country to high levels of pollution.

Fear of hazy horizons was compounded by the KCCA’s revelation that it detected pollution several times above the WHO normal range of 25 micrograms per cubic meter.

Results from 23 air quality monitors in Kampala indicated that the average particulate matter (PM 2.5) is 75 micrograms per cubic meter above the WHO cut-off point. Particles are the sum of all solid and liquid particles suspended in the air, many of which are hazardous to human health. Particulate matter is the last inhalable particles.

Today, air pollution is largely responsible for the deterioration of the environmental quality in many cities around the world, with adverse effects on human health.

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According to the latest WHO, more than 80 percent of people living in urban areas experience air quality levels above emission limits relative to pollution.

The main air pollutants are carbon monoxide, particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, ozone and sulfur dioxide. The increase in emissions of these pollutants is due to the rapid industrialization and urbanization of developing countries.

Real-time Air Quality Index figures for Uganda measured on a 24-hour basis show that the air in Kampala ranges from 70 for moderate to over 162, which is more than unhealthy for breathing.

Air pollution has reached worrying levels and is exposing people to health risks such as respiratory tract infections. Several studies have linked the increase in respiratory tract infections such as asthma and chronic bronchitis to air pollution. Research shows a link between air pollution and lung cancer, and suggests that it may contribute to infant mortality.

According to a survey conducted by the Makerere University College of Health Sciences, 40% of deaths in Uganda are due to noncommunicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes and chronic lung disease.

Yet if there’s one disease lurking in the garden, it’s the air we breathe, an invisible death trap that continues to plague the health of thousands of people.

Overall, 30 minutes of air exposure in three cities of Gwalior and Allahabad in India plus Zabol in Iran is just enough to cause damage. For African cities, Kampala tops the list of cities with the most polluted air in East, Central and Southern Africa.

Here, 90 minutes of exposure to fumes is enough to harm health. Other cities in Africa include Bamenda in Cameroon where 45 minutes drive is enough to cause damage.

According to statistics from the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics, nearly 50,000 vehicles travel to the city every day. That makes a total of over 150,000 single vehicles in the city, per day, spread over 189 square kilometers.

Many sources of outdoor air pollution in urban settings, such as industries and vehicles, are well beyond the control of individuals and require actions by cities, as well as national and international policy makers, to promote cleaner transport, more efficient energy production and waste management.

Latest urban air quality database shows 98% of cities in low- and middle-income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines .
Air quality is measured by the amount of particles it contains.

Therefore, to alleviate the problem of air pollution, efforts should be made to reduce pollutants.

Patrick Edema,
[email protected]


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