More than 90% of people worldwide have to breathe polluted air and the people most likely to suffer are those who live in crowded places, where the shift to cleaner forms of transportation and fuel has not happened (or is happening too slowly).
This is particularly evident in some areas of Asia and Africa, where smog hangs over cities, seeps into the countryside and even people’s homes.
But the air pollution in some cities on those continents is worse than others. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Onitsha, Anambra state is the city with the worst air pollution in the world.
The report shows that Onitsha has staggering levels of PM10 particulate matter in its air. PM10 refers to particles less than or equal to 10 micrometers in diameter, which are so small they can get into the lungs, potentially causing serious health problems.
Onitsha’s mean annual concentration was recorded at 594 micrograms per cubic metre by WHO, which is 30 times more than the recommended limit. Three other Nigerian cities were named in the WHO report for high PM10 levels: Kaduna, which came fifth, followed by the cities of Aba – in sixth place – and Umuahia, in 16th position.
Just last year, the World Bank reported that 94% of the population in Nigeria is exposed to air pollution levels that exceed WHO guidelines (compared to 72% on average in Sub-Saharan Africa in general) and air pollution damage costs about 1% post of gross national income.
Onitsha, Kaduna, Aba and Umuahia are grossly polluted, not just in terms of the air quality, but also the solid waste that litters the streets, blocking drainages and canals. But the same can be said for many Nigerian cities. Many times, there’s no dustbin in sight, so residents dump heaps of rubbish by roadsides and on street corners.
Nigeria does not recognize air pollution as a problem or take it seriously, but the health effects attributed to sustained exposure to PMs, especially PM2.5s, are well proven. If we have not recognized the fact there’s a problem, then how do we solve it?
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