What no one tells you about Air Pollution

Tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, child malnutrition and malaria are often the Centre of attention when major public health issues are discussed in Africa. Meanwhile, we breathe in the real killer from household pollution, stoves, polluting fuels inside our homes and contaminated ambient air. New researches have shown that air pollution is responsible for most of the premature mortality in Africa, and even though it is a global threat, the most marginalized and the poorest people suffers the most, especially young children and women.

The Talking Democrat reported that according to the World Health Organization (WHO),  global air pollution levels are hazardously high, with 9 out of 10 people breathing in polluted air. Furthermore, 90% of air pollution mortalities occur in low and middle- income countries in Africa and Asia.  A further 7 million die annually from the ambient air and household pollution. In 2013, it was suggested that,  polluted air in Africa might be killing roughly 712, 000 people every year, compared to 542, 000 from contaminated water,  275, 000 from malnutrition,  and 391,000  from poor sanitation.

An estimated yearly economic cost of premature air pollution deaths in 2013 was around $215bn and $232bn for outdoor and indoor air pollution respectively.  Determinants of air pollution are; open cooking fires, burning of rubbish, diesel generators and smoke emission from factories.  More 3 billion people in Africa still do not have access to clean cooking fuels or technologies at their homes.  An interesting finding was that, natural air pollution is responsible for most deaths contrary to man-made air pollutants. A new study  stated that the Saharan dust which is carried by winds all over the continent is responsible for around 1 million deaths, followed by industrial and urban emissions, then emitted gases from vehicles and factories. These deaths rank between leading cause of deaths in Africa such as HIV/AIDS and malaria.

Atmospheric pollutants can cause irritations to the respiratory system and this is dangerous to the heart, lungs, arterial or mucous membranes. Overexposure to fine particles causes diseases such as heart disease, constructive pulmonary disease (COPD), stroke, lung cancer and respiratory infections such as asthma and pneumonia.

The issue of air pollution in Africa is under-reported and under-addressed while it slowly multiplies and kills. The society is unaware of how dangerous it is because less hype is made through the media about air pollution. Therefore, changes that are drastic need to be made, and bold actions to improve access to electricity, use of clean technologies such as solar power, can aid to reducing the exposure of the poorest families to indoor dung-fire cooking stoves or smog from coal. In addition, there should be an improved awareness on air pollution and radically new technologies and approach put in place because if this latter trend increases, air pollution challenge will worsen faster.

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