Prof. Raphael Arku (left), an Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts, addressing the workshop on pollution in Accra
Prof. Raphael Arku (left), an Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts, addressing the workshop on pollution in Accra

Air pollution cause of NCDs in Accra — Report

Air pollution has been identified as a contributor to the growing non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in Accra, making it a major public health concern in the capital.

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The revelation, established by an investigation by the University of Ghana on clean air in Accra, mentioned the NCDs of concern to include lung cancer, chronic ischaemic heart diseases and acute respiratory infections (pneumonia) in children.

This was disclosed at a workshop organised by the university in Accra yesterday to boost its partnership with key stakeholders as part of its efforts to support the delivery of cleaner air in Accra.

The investigation and workshop were part of a global partnership project, dubbed: “The Pathway to Equitable Healthy Cities Project”, that sought to improve population health, enhance health equity and ensure environmental sustainability in cities worldwide.

The project, which had Prof. Samuel Agyei-Mensah of the University of Ghana as the Lead Investigator, is in partnership with Imperial College London and other leading universities in Bangladesh, Canada, the United Kingdom and China.

Overhaul

An Assistant Professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Prof. Raphael Arku, said it had been established that there had been about 25 to 180 per cent increase in nitrogen oxide pollution in Accra, a marker of traffic emissions in cities over the last 15 years.

Nitrogen oxide describes gases produced from natural sources, motor vehicles and other fuel burning processes.

Prof. Arku said the national transport system needed to be overhauled to improve health outcomes in the Greater Accra Metropolitan Area.

 The workshop on pollution in Accra

 The workshop on pollution in Accra

Making a presentation on sources of air pollution in Accra and the contribution of the transport sector, he said, “Road traffic may be replacing community biomass use — a major source of fine particulate matter — as the prominent source of air pollution in Accra”.

Prof. Arku said Accra was rapidly urbanising, and that was resulting in high demand for energy and transportation, which had an impact on air quality.

He said Accra was currently composed of a diverse mixture of combustion and non-combustion sources of air pollution, including biomass fuels, road dust, vehicle emissions and regional dust storms.

The Primary Investigator of the global project and a Professor at the Kings College, London, Prof. Frans Berkhout, said there was a well-established link between air pollution and human health, particularly conditions such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases, cancer and dementia.

“The workshop was critical for the dissemination of new scientific evidences and a platform for accessing current policy, standards and practice,” he said.

Prof. Agyei-Mensah called on authorities within the space, including the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA), to ensure that vehicles on the road were actually road worthy and were not emitting unacceptable levels of emissions.

He also recommended that the capacity of the Motor Transport and Traffic Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service be built to enable the agency to test for illegal levels of vehicle emission on the spot and keep such vehicles off the road.

He said that would ensure clearer and cleaner air for better health and socio-economic outcomes.

Pathway project

Prof. Agyei-Mensah, who was the Principal Investigator for the project in the country, said the stakeholder engagement was expected to develop an inclusive and comprehensive plan for the co-production of knowledge on vehicle emissions and urban health issues moving forward.

“The project is funded by the Wellcome Trust, with Imperial College London as the lead institution, with the aim to identify and implement policy actions that will advance urban development, improve people’s health and reduce inequalities within cities,” he said.

“The workshop aims to initiate and support dialogue between researchers and societal partners working in the space of curbing air pollution and its impact on health,” he said.

It pooled stakeholders from state agencies such as the DVLA, the MTTD, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Ghana Private Road Transport Union and academia.

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It also focused on thematic areas such as key issues on vehicle emissions in the country, opportunities for emissions reduction and priorities for actions against air pollution.

Writer’s email: [email protected]

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