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Accra air pollution high …above acceptable world standard – US expert

The quality of air in the Greater Accra Region is above the acceptable World Health Organisation (WHO) standards, Dr Dan Westervelt, an Associate Professor at the Columbia University, United States of America (USA) has said.

The WHO annual recommended guideline for outdoor air quality is 10 micrograms per cubic metre, but Ghana’s is 31.1 micrograms and contain ultra-fine particles which can penetrate and lodge deep inside the cardiovascular system.

Dr Westervelt said this on Thursday when he presented the results from a study on air quality in Jamestown at the American Corner, Agbogba, Madina, a suburb of Accra.

The study was funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the overarching objective of the U.S. Air Quality Capacity Building Fellowship is to enhance developing countries’ capacity in air quality management through the placement of U.S. air quality experts with national and sub-national governments. 

In Ghana, it is estimated that about 30,000 people died annually from air pollution related diseases.

This statistics is more than the number of HIV/AIDS, malaria, cholera, tuberculosis and cancer deaths put together.  

Although this study was conducted at a time when latest statistics from the WHO shows that the air quality in Accra was not congenial for human habitation, the American scientist believed the situation in Ghana is not precarious.

Speaking to the Ghanaian Times in an interview, Dr Westervelt said standards in China and India were way higher and worst than the situation in Ghana.

Dr Westervelt whose expertise span air quality, climate change, atmospheric chemistry and environmental engineering and science said the worst impact of air pollution could be addressed through capacity building, knowledge sharing as well as monitoring and provision of real time data on air quality.

Dr Westervelt is sharing his expertise with personnel of the Environmental Protection Agency of Ghana to enable them to monitor, predict and provide real time data on air quality.  

He, therefore, underscored the need to stop refuse burning and other activities that increases the level of contaminants in the air.

Dr Westervelt identified refuse burning, vehicle emission and traditional pollution sources such as industry and electricity generating units as the causes of air pollution.

He said in the 1950s and 60s, air quality in New York, USA used to be below international standards, but the situation had improved.

Mr Emmanuel E. K Appoh, Chief Programme Officer, Environmental Quality Department, EPA, said monitoring air quality is very expensive.

He said the EPA would later this year receive two federal grade monitors totalling about GH¢800,000 from the World Bank to support the cause of providing timely data collection.

Air pollution is a global health crisis and the fifth leading cause of deaths in the world.

BY MALIK SULLEMANA 

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