About 20,000 people die annually from exposure to air pollution in the country, Deputy Executive Director of Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mr Ebenezer Appah-Sarpong has disclosed. He said out of the figure, about 2,800 lives were lost in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area (GAMA) with the number projected to increase to approximately 4,600 by 2030.
“Results from a study of Burden Diseases in Ghana in 2010, showed that lower respiratory diseases ranked second to malaria among the 10 top diseases with more than 14,000 deaths from exposure to household air pollution and 3,000 deaths of children under five years from exposure to household air pollution,” he said. Mr Appah-Sarpong made this known yesterday at a press conference on Air Quality in Accra. It was to brief the media on the collaboration between EPA and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) on a roadmap instituted by the two agencies to improve quality air.
Mr Appah-Sarpong said the estimated economic cost of these deaths was greater than that caused by unsafe sanitation or underweight children. He noted that the estimated economic cost of Africa alone of indoor and outdoor air pollution approached approximately $250 billion dollars annually.
“The health hazards of air pollution vary; it is often based on how long and to how much a person is exposed. These ranges from acute respiratory infections to long term effects like emphysema, lung cancer, cataract. Other infections include low birth
weight, retardation, cardiovascular and circulatory diseases,” he said. Mr Appah-Sarpong said children, the elderly and those with already compromised immune systems like asthmatics were particularly vulnerable. He said the situation could be alarming as a result of the growing rural-urban migration, increase in population at a rate of 2.1 per cent and a daily influx of 2.5 million people into GAMA. He said the situation is likely to outpace and challenge the already inadequate infrastructure that exists to manage air pollution.
“To curtail this, many initiatives and studies have been put in place to reduce air pollution. These include vehicle emissions strategies and standards, electronic mobility implementation strategies, the elimination of lead from gasoline. “Comparisons of blood lead level among school children in urban road side location and in rural areas, cleaner bus standard and national green house gas inventory,” he said.
The Chief Sustainability Advisor of AMA, Mr Desmond Appiah said a recent stakeholder consultation workshop that brought participants from the Ghana Health Service, EPA, Ministry of Local Government, Ghana Education Service and Sanitation Ministry made a recommendation to curtail air pollution. He said among the recommenda- tions made were actions to improve the fleet’s fuel and technology on both private and public vehicles, policies and by-laws to be put in place to set up waste separation and recycling to reduce waste. Other recommendation, he men- tioned was effective stakeholders mapping with strong ownership at the local level and clearly defined roles and responsibilities among all relevant sectors acting across all the levels of governance.
BY BERNARD BENGHAN