On air pollution

UNCONSCIOUSLY or consciously, in the course of our daily activities, we inhale polluted air. It is not surprising that new and strange diseases are on an alarming rise, largely air-borne. In the last few months, this part of the world has experienced change in temperature leading to heat wave; it may remain so for the next couple of years if we keep increasing various emission types that continuously deplete the already fragile ozone layer.

Going by the rate at which emissions are rising, the truth is we have fewer years to act than we think. Air pollution has been recognized as a silent killer, a top contributor to terminal diseases and a leading cause of the climate change crisis now attracting global attention. The rate of death recorded every year arising from air pollution is alarming; 4.2million deaths every year, as a result of exposure to ambient air pollution and 3.8 million deaths as a result of household exposure to smoke from dirty cooking stoves and fuels.

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This is a call for change in behavioral pattern for the transition to clean energy sources we desire to happen. This is the global framework, but going by this, where does Nigeria stand? Four Nigerian states; Aba, Kaduna, Onitsha and Umuahia have an indication of hazardous air quality. This implies that outbreak of disease can spring out from such states with prevalent occurrence of newer diseases among the residents in such areas.

It indicates that every breath we take contains unhealthy particles that can shorten the life of a child born today by 20 months on an average, according to the study on the state of global air. These cities exceed the guideline for PM10 by 37 times, 42 times, 59 times and 27 times in Aba, Kaduna, Onitsha and Umuahia respectively.

The lives of people living in the highlighted states are greatly endangered as air-borne particles can be cancerous to their lungs. Little wonder, the World Health Organisation 2016 Report included Onitsha, Kaduna, Aba and Umuahia among four of the 20 African cities with the worst air quality in the world. While Owerri, the capital of Imo State, has a very unhealthy air quality, exceeding the PM10 by 15 times.

This health situation can have a great impact on the health of the people. Also, the following cities – Abakaliki, Afikpo, Enugu, Ile-Ife, Nnewi and Nsukka are also categorized as cities with unhealthy air quality. People living in these communities are more likely to experience one health issue or the other with high level of vulnerability to diseases like asthma, heart diseases, especially for sensitive people like children and the aged.

Air pollution is a silent killer and a threat to human existence. A 2016 report by World Health Organization posits that the air people breathe in Nigeria is more likely to cause harm than the air in any other African country because Nigeria currently has the highest (fourth globally) in the world with 150 deaths per 100,000 people attributable to pollution.

Oladosu Adenike