The World Bank reported in 2015 than 94% of the Nigerian population were exposed to air pollution levels that exceed WHO guidelines (compared to 72% on average in Sub-Saharan Africa in general). According to the annual State of the Global Air Report published by the Health Effects Institute (HEI), there were 150 deaths per 100,000 people attributable to air pollution in Nigeria in 2016 (the latest year of available data), compared to high industrialized countries like China, 117 deaths per 100,000 people; Russia, 62 deaths per 100,000 people; Germany, 22 deaths per 100,000 people; United Kingdom, 21 deaths per 100,000 people; the United States, 21 deaths per 100,000 people; and Canada, 12 deaths per 100,000 people. Only Afghanistan with 406; Pakistan, 207, and India, 195 deaths per 100,000 people per country, exceed the Nigerian figure.
Also, according to a 2016 World Health Organization report, Onitsha, Kaduna, Aba and Umuahia were among four of the 20 African cities with the worst air quality in the world. In 2012, the WHO said there were 46,750 deaths in Nigeria from air pollution. The WHO measured air quality by examining the annual mean concentration of particulate matter in nearly 3,000 cities across the world with populations of at least 100,000. Onitsha average annual PM10 was 594 – nearly 30 times greater than the WHO-recommended annual level of 20. Kaduna, Aba, and Umuahia cities were ranked among the top 20 worst cities measured by PM10, ranking 8th, 9th, and 19th, respectively. These assessments were limited to the number of town and cities with accessible PM10 and PM2.5 data. According to an assessment of Air Quality index carried out in different areas of Port Harcourt by Oladapo M Akinfolarin et al and published on the Journal of Environmental Analytical Chemistry, the air quality in the industrial areas were categorized as hazardous especially in the dry season.
If we actually dig deeper, I can bet my life savings that we can actually find a correlation between power outages and an increase in pollution from city to city. As these outages occur Nigerians will respond by switching on their generators which pump by-products of fuel combustion into our environment and these by-products are huge contributors to the pollutants which contribute to health hazards suffered by us all.
It is time for Nigerians to push for a new policy on renewable energy as new standards for real estate development across the country, we need to collectively work to reduce our carbon footprint and in return reduce the destructive effects of air pollution that is created by our infrastructural inadequacies. solar energy, wind energy, conversion of waste for power are all avenues with which we can begin to rethink our power problems. Let us all act before it is too late.
Threats posed by air pollution
According to WHO, as the world gets hotter and more crowded, our engines continue to pump out dirty emissions, and half the world has no access to clean fuels or technologies (e.g. stoves, lamps), the very air we breathe is growing dangerously polluted: nine out of ten people now breathe polluted air, which kills 7 million people every year. Ambient air pollution alone caused some 4.2 million deaths in 2016, while household air pollution from cooking with polluting fuels and technologies caused an estimated 3.8 million deaths in the same period.
The health effects of air pollution are serious – one third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution. This is having an equivalent effect to that of smoking tobacco, and much higher than, say, the effects of eating too much salt. Air pollution is now the fourth highest cause of death worldwide, with smoking, high blood pressure and poor diet topping the list. in Nigeria, air pollution is hardly listed among causes of deaths on death certificates yet the effects of air pollution exposure, such as lung cancer, and other diseases are fatal. air pollution also causes heart and respiratory diseases, as well as damage to people’s nerves, brain, kidneys, liver and other vital organs.