Harmful Effects of Pollution

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One of the largest growing issues in the world today is air pollution. In 2013, 87% of the world’s population lived in areas that exceed the World Health Organizations air quality standards 2. There are many air pollution tracking programs that provide real-time air quality reports around the world. When viewing these you will notice Africa has barely any of these real-time tracking systems operating and in place, particularly not Sub-Saharan Africa (Figure 1). There are many know problems related to airborne pollution, primarily respiratory complications and disease, giving us cause to look deeper as to what problems might be present in the region.

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When looking into the region, one finds that Nigeria has the highest emission of gaseous and particulate pollutants of any country on the continent (Figure 2). Majority of this is concentrated throughout the south of the country, around Warri and the Delta region, as well as Lagos, which is the 2nd most populous city in Africa. Focusing on these areas there have been many studies citing how contaminated the air is, where cities like Onitsha has been recorded to have an astounding 30 times more the WHO’s recommended level of PM10, a particulate size able to enter into the lungs 3.

These pollutants can be categorized in two broad categories, outside the home and inside the home pollution. Outside the home pollution consists of the pollution from petroleum rigs and extraction plants such as those common along the southern coast, and the fumes from traffic congestion that is present in Lagos and surrounding areas (Lagos has been documented as the most traffic congested city in the world on multiple occasions). In home pollution comes from a variety of in home tasks such as cooking with fire wood, using a generator to power cell phones/radios/laptops, burning kerosene at night for light or heating.

Looking at both categorizations, it is difficult to assess the individual effects of either and to entirely solve the pollution they both present. With that being said, oil control is a very politically motivated where without proper government reform it would be difficult to address (made more difficult in Nigeria, who is in constant contention as the most corrupt country in the world). In addition, traffic is an extremely difficult problem to solve due to the lack of infrastructure funding and present corruption. Thus, in this proposal we look to study and begin solving parts of the health detriments that arise from pollution coming within the home as it has been documented that many locals are concerned by the conditions present in these areas and report experiencing increased respiratory issues.

The biggest issues present is the lack of current literature on the health effects in Nigeria and much of Africa. There is a lack of continuous air quality monitoring despite an international effort in the 1990s to monitor air throughout the country, an initiative which failed due to a lack of maintenance for the meters, arising from a lack of money not being set aside and lack of expertise by local personnel for maintenance 4. There is still a lot of research that needs to be conducted to have a better knowledge on how to tackle this problem, specifically in regard to how to potentially alleviate local traffic which causes an extreme excess of fumes, and how to approach individuals understanding of the dangers of pollution. Later I will outline a brief set of steps taken and mention how these will be measured.

While only a few studies have looked into the direct relationship between daily ambient and personal black carbon particle concentrations, considering the large amounts of time are spent in the home, it is unsurprising that these two are presumed to bare important effects on a person’s health 5.

Although there is difficulty in pinpointing the exact effects of household pollution on an individual, we do know the effects of pollution on a person’s health as well, including specifically the effects of types of pollutants that are produced from various house hold activities typical of many Nigerian households. We know that poor indoor air quality with little pollution can contribute to the development of infections, lung cancer and chronic lung diseases including asthma 6. With burning of gasoline one produces Volatile Organic Compounds(VOCs), which can cause severe throat irritation, eye irritation, lung irritation, nausea, and damage certain organs and the central nervous system. One of the suggested recommendations given by the American Lung Association is to keep buildings smoke free as possible, particularly if one is not cooking. Another problem with in residential wood burning are the threat is poses on lung health, causing severe coughs, asthma attacks, heart attacks, premature death and other effects. Wood-burning, along with kerosene burning, are one of the major sources for particle pollution and increases Carbon Dioxide levels significantly within a home affecting lung tissue repair(hypercapnia) 7. There are vulnerable individuals such as those with pre-existing lung problems, primarily the elderly, and children who are more susceptible to the harmful effects on an increase CO2 and Nitrogen Oxides 8.

These pollutants can be categorized in two categories, outside the home and inside the home pollution. Outside the home pollution consists of the pollution from petroleum rigs and extraction plants such as those common along the southern coast, and the fumes from traffic congestion that is present in Lagos and surrounding areas (Lagos has been documented as the most traffic congested city in the world on multiple occasions). In home pollution comes from a variety of in home tasks such as cooking with fire wood, using a generator to power cell phones/radios/laptops, burning kerosene at night for light or heating.

Looking at both categorizations, it is difficult to assess the individual effects of either and to entirely solve the pollution they both present. With that being said, oil control is a very politically motivated where without proper government reform it would be difficult to address (made more difficult in Nigeria, who is in constant contention as the most corrupt country in the world). In addition, traffic is an extremely difficult problem to solve due to the lack of infrastructure funding and present corruption. Thus, in this proposal we look to study and begin solving parts of the health detriments that arise from pollution coming within the home.

The biggest issues present is the lack of current literature on the health effects in Nigeria and much of Africa due to pollution, or even pollution tracking. There is a lack of continuous air quality monitoring despite an international effort in the 1990s to monitor air throughout the country, an initiative which failed due to a lack of maintenance for the meters, arising from a lack of money not being set aside and lack of expertise by local personnel for maintenance9.There is still a lot of research that needs to be conducted to have a better knowledge on how to tackle this problem, specifically in regard to the effects pollution have outside of just an individual’s health, how they affect the social and economic landscape of the individuals affected by these problems.

This issue is of uttermost importance, and the benefits that can be reaped by studying the effects of intervention on these individuals cannot be stressed enough as it is a rapidly increasing problem. There are numerous health effects associated with high level of pollution in the home, some of which were highlighted earlier regarding lung problems, cardiac complications, cancer and birth defects. Here I will highlight some methods this study intends to take to better understand and improve what individuals are going through. First, we must collect data to begin understanding the issue at hand in its entirety and in collecting this data it may be used to shed light on the abysmal state of air quality in most of Nigeria so others may engage in initiatives to help combat this or even to give grounds to serious policy measures to improve the situation at hand. The first part of this study will involve measuring air quality in Onitsha over a period of one year, to get an understanding on air quality during all times of the year, both in several outside locations as well as levels within several different households. Coupled with measuring the air quality in several homes, we will track the individual’s health who are living in their homes as well as those individuals who won’t be receiving measures intended to mitigate the pollutions effects. Additional to all this tracking, which can be conducted rather inexpensively, we will study how reducing the need to use pollution emitting equipment through solar powered appliances affects the health and general livelihood of the individual. This approach is being taken to have a dual effect on both the health of individuals endangered by high levels of pollution as well, as improving the economic and social wellbeing of participants. Current research from a variety of groups has found that individuals in Kenya and Uganda are reaping enormous economic and social benefits through these measures although the health impacts are unclear and have not been studied10. Although the approach isn’t solar power centered, in India there have been many other initiatives to replace current cook stoves, one of the primary causes of indoor pollution, with smoke-less cook stoves that have been found to reduce the amount of CO2 emissions by 50% as well as reducing consumption of fire wood in certain villages by 40-55% according to the UNDP11. Combining the ideas of both in which each presents either a health or economic benefit, we are perusing this project on investigating if this form of in home pollution reduction is viable in Nigeria. There is little prior comparison for this initiative as it is new in Nigeria and has therefore not been studied in nearly any capacity. This project will open a door as the daily cost of solar panels when paid with an as-you-go model (the trial will not charge as it is a pilot and is focused on the effects) amount to an average of 43cents, which is about half the cost in other African countries of acquiring wood or kerosene. This will free a lot of time for individuals, give them greater economic freedom and most importantly will likely improve individual’s health.

Methods (Very short version):

The study will consist of 4 main parts taking place over the span of a year.

A) Track air pollution in and outside the home

B) Measure individual’s health, specifically as relates to potential pollution related problems

C) Provide solar power for individuals

D) Study economic freedom and social benefits from solar power in addition to changes in health and air quality

Part A will consist of using low cost air quality sensors, an emerging and highly effective method to measure air quality in more localized areas12. These sensors are highly effective and many are priced at under $2500, one of the most used and effective in field work as used by the UN Environmental Programe, the EPA is the TSI AirAssure-PM2.5 which costs $1000 and is regarded as one of the most durable air-sensors, as well as most importantly it is highly accurate at high levels of pollution and is able to measure relevant particle sizes (PM 1, 2.5, 10)13,14. In addition, this selection is made after careful analysis of a variety of different models under the $2500 for the most accurate results, referencing studies by the EPA and others14,15. We will purchase 41units, where 20 are to be used in homes receiving treatment, 10 in other control homes without solar energy, 10 used to monitor ambient air quality in strategic locations around Onitsha( such as major roads, community gathering areas and other), and one extra unit to account for potential damages or malfunctions.

Part B will consist of taking various measurements of an individual’s health as if checking for respiratory or cardiac disease at the beginning of the trial and once every week over the period of the year to see changes in condition. We will be measuring all individuals in a given household, the average size of a Nigerian household being five people16, meaning for 20 treated homes and 10 control homes we will monitor the health of about 150 individuals.

Part C will consist of distributing a series of low-cost solar equipment to 20 designated homes, where through a variety of units selected to mimic M-KOPA’s success in other countries are, the cash price falls between $5,500-6,900 per set. This set currently includes M-KOPA 6000 Control Unit, 24-32? Flat Screen Digital TV, 60W Solar Panel, TV Remote Control, TV Aerial, 2 x Solar Lights with high and low setting, 2 x Solar Tube Lights, Solar Rechargeable LED Torch, Solar Rechargeable Radio, 2 x Phone Charging Cables, 1 x 6m Solar Light Extension cable17. As part of this study, we will not be offering the TV and relevant materials such as remote an TV aerial, which we assume will likely lower the cost of one of these full cost bundles. With transportation of the units, which are already on the continent, we will estimate costs per bundle to be about $7000, which after buying 20units will give us a total of $140,000. It is to be known for this study the participants will not be charged although the model is based on a pay as you go subscription where near total access to electricity costs less than $1-$1.50 a day for 500days.

Part D will consist of monitoring changes in general activity such as length of time worked and how that affects house hold income, factoring the additional free time not used to collect wood, kerosene and other materials, as well as the amount saved if they were spending $1-$1.50. We will ask about weekly happiness, and track if it has significantly changed over time, as well as evaluate if there are changes in free time which participants deem as beneficial. Many of these will likely have some correlation to health but are also extremely important indicators of quality of life.

Budget will currently be under $500k after factoring wages of those involved, transportation, approval and other miscellaneous expenditures. With remaining budget we will try and service more trials in more homes if possible.

Overall, we hope to examine and monitor air quality within the home to see changes in individual’s physical health as well as economic well-being. At the WHO’s 2018 Annual Summit one of the key topics of conversation was pollution and the health problems associated with such. Representatives from different countries agreed that the first step was to begin setting up air quality measurements with which the data could be looked at to best determine which course of action would be most suitable to all individuals involved4. In this study, we hope to establish continued monitoring and release this data in hopes to grow this air quality monitoring to the rest of the world and other regions. We hope to provide economic freedom for individuals through improvements in health allowing them to live their daily lives to a fuller capacity as well as by removing the economic burden of dirty energy while looking at what realistic, cost effective methods would work in a larger population.

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Harmful Effects of Pollution. (2021, Mar 26). Retrieved September 28, 2022 , from
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