Author(s): Albérick Tito, Folly Messan, Florant Nsompi, Albert M. Tito, Mouhamed Mansourou Lawani, Adolphe Ahonnon
Affiliated Organization: International Journal of Current Research
Date of publication: 2018
Type of publication: Research Article
Air pollution is currently a danger to public health. A recent study has shown that in 2013, air pollution was responsible for 5.5 million deaths worldwide, and assessments anticipate between 6 and 9 million deaths by 2060.
Air pollution stems not only from industry emissions but also from heating and vehicle exhaust.
Status of current knowledge on the subject
Framework, demographic and socio-economic contexts
West Africa is part of sub-Saharan Africa and includes 15 countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Togo). West Africa has an area of approximately 6.14 million square km. By 2020, 50% of the African population will be urban, more than half of whom will be in West Africa.
This growth of the urban African population poses a number of problems. With increasing poverty and a low standard of living, there is a lack of reception facilities and, as a result, enormous environmental, social, and economic problems remain. The socioeconomic situation of African countries south of the Sahara is not ideal despite the implementation of the “Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)”, which aim to reducing extreme poverty and hunger, improving health and education and ensuring a sustainable environment.
We can see the persistence of real problems including the low school enrollment rates of the population and especially the environmental pollution generated by urban transport in West African capitals. Indeed, the urban population growth, the migration of young people from villages to cities, the wave of layoffs of public sector workers following the Structural Adjustment Program imposed by the Bretton Woods Institutions in the 1980s and the devaluation of the money of the African Financial Community in 1994 have induced a very high rate of unemployment in capital cities in West Africa. This crisis is felt strongly in the main West African capitals where the lack of a public transport policy, the weak urban transport network and the low socioeconomic level of Africans have favored the emergence of an informal sector of activities animated by motorcycle drivers.
Origins of atmospheric pollution in West Africa
Much of the air pollution in West Africa is of organic origin. In energy, biomass is the living mass considered from the viewpoint of the energy that can be obtained by combustion or fermentation from animal excrement, fossil waste, etc. It includes all organic materials that can become sources of energy. Thus, there is burning and intensive use of biomass and, more particularly, wood in developing countries for several reasons. For millions of years, wood has been used as a source of energy for heating and cooking.
The combustion of biomass is responsible for the emission of a large amount of gases and particles that contribute to the modification of air quality. These gases and particles play an active role in pollution. Indeed, these particles reduce the solar radiation that should reach the soil and thus modify the variation of the diurnal temperature of the clouds. Monsoon winds are generally laden with sea salts, and Saharan winds generate dust from forest and domestic fires and aging fleets. Road traffic in capitals is very dense, and fleets have several hundred new vehicles but are mostly second-hand imported vehicles from Europe. The fuels used by these vehicles are not of good quality.
Synthesis of scientific studies on the subject
Globally, nearly 300 million people suffer from asthma and cardiorespiratory diseases. Indeed, globally, and particularly in Africa, these public health problems are linked to the fact that a large number of individuals are exposed daily to the pollutants.
This is why it is important for West African countries to integrate regional and international structures aimed at improving air quality, putting in place strict emission standards to guarantee progress in diesel technology and gasoline in the region
Research shows an association between the high level of pollution and the high intake number of people in hospitals with emergency cases of asthma attacks. According to the work of prolonged exposure to ozone causes inflammation of the airways, bronchial hyper-reactivity and depression of lung function. As one might expect, West Africa is confronted with the real problems of pollution of different natures as well as with its multiple impacts on the climate and on the health of the populations, since the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that more than 300 million children around the world breathe toxic air.
Air pollution remains a major public health concern worldwide with significant population growth. It is therefore conceivable that interactions of environmental factors with the determinants of health are exerted. These combinations of several pollutants represent a complex cocktail of components that are likely to generate so-called “emerging” diseases in sedentary individuals, children, adults and high-level athletes. These diseases could occur in the long term and cause many casualties in West Africa if practical arrangements are not made in a timely manner.
This is why it is important for West African countries to integrate regional and international structures aimed at improving air quality, putting in place strict emission standards to guarantee progress in diesel technology and gasoline in the region. This would reduce the emissions of fine particles, nitrous oxide and hydrocarbons. In addition, the importation and production of quality fuel in Africa must be followed by internationally recognized independent quality standards structures.
Atmospheric pollutants do not stop at the borders of the different countries of West Africa, and humans are directly or indirectly responsible for air pollution. It is important for several countries to come together to define strategies for combating environmental pollution by encouraging people to change their behavior. These measures should include reducing the exposure of people to air pollution particularly with regard to particulate matter, improving air quality and setting up devices that monitor the quality and standards of ambient air.
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