Cost of air pollution should not be limited to health – Experts
The researchers said there was the need to measure the extent to which air pollution affected the climate and ecosystem, agriculture and food security, and other areas that impacted livelihoods and the economy.
They made the call in separate presentations at the Air Sensors International Community’s 2023 International Connection Hub Ghana Conference underway in Accra.
The Conference, organised by the UC Davis Air Quality Research Centre, with support from the Clean Air Fund, has brought together researchers, policy makers, and relevant stakeholders to discuss how to effectively use air quality sensors and the data produced to be able to understand the health and economic cost of air pollution.
It also seeks to facilitate dialogue between researchers, communities, industry members, city managers, and regulators on the topic of low‐cost sensor use in Africa.
According to the Air Quality Index (AQI), optimal or good air quality typically falls within the range of 0 to 50 on the index.
AQI levels ranging from 51 to 100 are considered moderate, with potential health concerns for a small subset of individuals, particularly young children under the age of five.
The World Health Organisation indicates that the combined effects of ambient air pollution and household air pollution are associated with seven million premature deaths annually.
Dr Gabriel Okello, an expert in human exposure science at the African Centre for Clean Air, said the cost element associated with the treatment of health conditions caused by air pollution should be highlighted to enable people appreciate the seriousness of the problem.
“The figures are underestimated. We should start putting the dollar sign on the cost of air pollution… when we fall sick, we pay for treatment and all of that should be quantified.
“Premature deaths also lead to loss of workforce, which affects productivity and output,” he said.
Dr Okello said countries could save money to address the essential needs of its citizens if action was taken to clean the air to reduce health risk.
He mentioned continuous air monitoring, investment in clean energy, and improved solid waste management as among the measures to improve air quality in Africa.
Professor Kofi Amegah, an Associate Professor of Environmental and Nutritional Epidemiology at the University of Cape Coast, said Africa must leverage low-cost sensors for epidemiological studies to help bridge data gap in the area.
“The most promising sensors should be embraced to assure data quality and inspire greater confidence in the decisions reached with the data gathered.
Dr Nuria Castell, Senior Scientist at the Climate and Environmental Research Institute (NILU), called for the standardisation of air quality data so that data collated at the local level could feed into global analysis.
“We need data of good quality so we can use to aid planning,” she said.