Air pollution killing millions

urban air pollution

Increasing outdoor air pollution may lead to nine million premature deaths worldwide, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has warned.

In a report released last month, OECD warns that air pollution could also lead to an annual economic cost of about $2.6 trillion by 2060.

The report comes at a time when the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 98 per cent of cities in low and middle income countries with more than 100,000 inhabitants do not meet WHO air quality guidelines.

This report also warns that more work days will be lost due to sicknesses caused by outdoor air pollution.

Simon Upton, OECD’s environment secretary said: “The number of lives cut short by air pollution is already terrible and the potential rise in the next few decades is terrifying.”

But air pollution will not only affect the health of people but crop yields as well.

Kenya’s atmospheric emissions keep rising mainly due to more motor vehicles being registered. In 2014 alone, Kenya registered 218,057 vehicles majority of which are concentrated in urban areas.

Kenya will most likely not be left behind when the effects strike even with the Environmental Management and Coordination (Air Quality) Regulations Act, 2014.

Despite the law being clear, there is still wanton pollution that has kept increasing over the years even as the National Environment Management Authority strives hard to put its foot down on those flouting these laws.

While these laws look good on paper, a casual view along our roads, in industrial zones, garbage disposal sites reveal that their enforcement is still weak.

Vehicles spewing plumes of smoke is still commonplace as well as garbage being burnt in non-recommended areas.

WHO states: “More than 80 per cent of people living in urban areas that monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO limits. While all regions of the world are affected, populations in low-income cities are the most impacted.”

Upton said, “If this is not motivation enough to act, this report shows there will also be a heavy economic cost to not taking action.”

The Kenya Economic survey of 2011 found that one in four deaths is linked to respiratory diseases.

Between 2006 and 2010, upper respiratory tract infections in Kenya increased from 22 per cent to 26 per cent of the national disease burden and some of the causes that were indicated as having contributed to this included poor air quality due to pollution from mainly the energy and transport sectors.

Cancer is also a very significant visible impact of outdoor air pollution with WHO stating:

“A 2013 assessment by WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer concluded that outdoor air pollution is carcinogenic to humans, with the particulate matter component of air pollution most closely associated with increased cancer incidence, especially cancer of the lung.An association also has been observed between outdoor air pollution and increase in cancer of the urinary tract or bladder.”

The global health organisation urges countries to reduce air pollution levels which will in turn reduce burden of diseases like stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and respiratory diseases like asthma.