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Air pollution is number one public health risk in Ghana, affecting infants and elderly – World Bank – Ghana Business News

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Air pollution, from both outdoor and indoor activities are dangerous to the environment and human health, but infants and the elderly in Ghana are at greater risk as they make the majority who fall ill from the pollution, a World Bank study has found out.

In a presentation at a one-day workshop on air pollution, September 24, 2021 in Accra, George Amoasah, the World Bank Environmental Specialist outlined the natural sources of emissions which include smoke from bush or forest fires, windblown dust, pollen and mold spores, volcanic activity, sea spray, and so on.

“The anthropogenic sources include fuel combustion from motor vehicles, electricity and heat generation, industrial and mining activities, solid waste landfills and waste incineration, household sources of air pollution,” he said.

He indicated that household air pollution is mainly from anthropogenic activities such as incomplete combustion of solid biomass fuels (e.g., wood, charcoal, crop waste, dung), coal and kerosene, for cooking, heating, and lighting needs.

Citing a World Bank report on air pollution said an estimated 20.5 million Ghanaians – over 70 per cent of the population – burn solid fuels e.g., fuelwood, charcoal, dung and so on, in their homes for cooking and heating.

“Air pollution’s disease burden is disproportionately borne by infants and the elderly,” he said.

The report finds that 100 per cent of Ghana’s population is exposed to air pollution levels exceeding WHO’s guidelines, and 16,000 people die prematurely from it.

Approximately 66 per cent of air pollution related deaths in rural areas are due to Household Air Pollution, the report found.

“Air pollution is deadly, causing or contributing to heart attacks, strokes, lung cancer, and respiratory diseases. It is Ghana’s number one environmental risk to public health and its sixth-ranked overall risk for death,” said Pierre Laporte, World Bank Country Director of Ghana at the opening of the dissemination workshop.

“Ghana’s air pollution is responsible for eight per cent of total mortality with approximately 16,000 Ghanaians dying prematurely each year. More than half of these deaths are in our cities with nearly as many occurring in rural areas,” he added.

The World Bank study also found that in 2017, air pollution in Ghana had an estimated average cost of $2.5 billion or an equivalent of 4.2 per cent of GDP.

The study estimates the cost of Ghana’s greenhouse gas emissions to the global community is, on average $2.3 billion each year (though the estimated range is $1.5 to $3.2 billion), equivalent to just under 4 per cent of Ghana’s GDP.

By Emmanuel K. Dogbevi
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