- Despite Nairobi’s air being better than most African cities, it is still unhealthy and has double the amount of pollution the World Health Organization says is acceptable.
- According to the WHO, there is also evidence that children who grow up breathing polluted air have lower intelligence.
Nairobi has the cleanest, most breathable air in Africa, after cities in South Africa and Angola, the world’s most comprehensive air pollution report suggests.
The report only places seven cities in South Africa and Luanda in Angola ahead of Kenya’s capital.
The ranking relies on air quality monitors placed in different locations across the world.
One of Nairobi’s monitors is placed in Pumwani, but the report does not indicate where the rest are mounted.
Overall, the 2022 World Air Quality Report, released earlier this week, shows Angola has the cleanest air in Africa, followed by Kenya and DR Congo respectively.
Chad has the dirtiest air, with Burkina Faso in the second-last position.
However, IQAir, the Swiss technology company that produces the annual report, noted that rankings for Africa could slightly be misleading because most countries lack adequate air quality monitors.
“Reliable and accessible air quality data in Africa remains sparse. Most African countries lack air quality monitoring data, leaving most people on the continent without the information necessary to make important health decisions,” the report says.
It compiles 2022 data from 156 monitors in 52 cities in Africa, where roughly 70 per cent of the population in those cities live.
Despite Nairobi’s air being better than most African cities, it is still unhealthy and has double the amount of pollution the World Health Organization says is acceptable.
Most of the pollution comes from vehicle and industrial fumes and dust.
The study looked specifically at fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, which is the tiniest pollutant but also the most dangerous. When inhaled, the PM2.5 travels deep into lung tissue where it can enter the bloodstream.
WHO says the acceptable amount of fine particulate matter is five micrograms per cubic meter. Nairobi has 11.5 micrograms.
That means most Kenyans in Nairobi breathe dirty air that exposes them to a wide range of respiratory diseases.
Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics shows respiratory diseases are the top ailments affecting and killing Kenyans.
The KNBS’s Economic Survey 2022 showed that 20,613,455 cases of respiratory diseases had been reported by December 2021, accounting for 21.9 per cent disease burden in the country.
The UN Environment Programme based in Gigiri notes that air pollution causes one in nine deaths globally. “It is the most important environmental health risk of our time,” Unep says.
According to the WHO, there is also evidence that children who grow up breathing polluted air have lower intelligence.
The IQAir report shows poor people are most exposed to dirty air.
“In 2022, more than half of the world’s air quality data was generated by grassroots community efforts. When citizens get involved in air quality monitoring, we see a shift in awareness and the joint effort to improve air quality intensifies. We need governments to monitor air quality, but we cannot wait for them. Air quality monitoring by communities creates transparency and urgency. It leads to collaborative actions that improve air quality,” states Frank Hammes, Global CEO, IQAir.
Kenya’s National Environmental Management Authority 2014 released regulations for national air quality standards.
The regulations also laid out steps to be taken for “prevention, control and abatement” of pollution in recognition of the toll it takes on health.
However, there has been little or no enforcement of these regulations in most areas.
-Edited by SKanyara