By Inspirer staff.
What Is Air Pollution?
Air pollution refers to the release of pollutants into the air that are detrimental to human health and the planet.
What are the leading sources of air pollutants in Rwanda?
A study commissioned by REMA and completed in December 2017 concluded that there is no single sector that is the biggest contributor to air pollution in Rwanda.
However, the study concluded, in locations adjacent to busy roads, particularly in urban areas, vehicle emissions are the biggest contributor to poor air quality whereas domestic biomass cookstoves (wood and charcoal) are the primary contributors to poor air quality in residential areas.
Power plants were found to have a potential to contribute higher emission rates of pollutants compared to household cooking but their effects on air quality in areas where there is high population density is low because the plants have stacks to aid dispersion and they are not located in residential areas.
Who’s mostly at risk?
Everyone is at risk as air has no boundaries, but people who live near the pollution source are more exposed.
For example cooking indoor with charcoal or wood or living or working near a busy traffic area.
So, it is everyone’s responsibility to take actions that contribute to improving the quality of air.
The Air Quality Inventory study, commissioned by REMA, has found the levels of particulate matters (PM10 and PM2.5) and oxide of nitrogen (NOx ) to be high in urban areas, with higher concentrations in areas adjacent to busy and congested roads. Such concentration levels of pollutants sometimes reach levels beyond accepted standards, according to the study.
Particulate Matters is composed of extremely small particles or liquid droplets than can be released into the air. The most health-damaging particles are those with a diameter of 2.5 microns or less (PM2.5), which can penetrate and lodge deep inside the lungs. Chronic exposure to these particles contributes to the risk of developing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as of lung cancer.
Why do we need to control air pollution?
Air pollution is the leading environmental threat to human health. Today, 90% of people globally breathe polluted air and approximately seven million people die from air pollution related causes every year.
Air pollution costs the global economy US $5 trillion in welfare costs annually and ground-level ozone pollution is expected to reduce staple crop yields by 26 per cent by 2030. In Rwanda, more than 2,200 deaths were attributed to ambient air pollution in 2012 and the number of hospital admissions for acute respiratory infections in health centres across the country increased to 3,331,300 in 2015, up from 1,682,321 in 2012.
By reducing air pollution, we will also reduce the burden of disease from stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and both chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma, as well as improve our natural environment and address the climate crisis.
What can you do to contribute to improving air quality?
There are a set of actions – both collective and individual- that can help improve the quality of air we breathe.
At home, there are many ways to help improve the quality of air. By reducing energy consumption, choosing sustainable products and eliminating your exposure to chemicals, we can reduce pollution levels.
For instance, if less gasoline, biomass and electricity (power plants burn fossil fuels to generate electricity) are used, not only do your bills decrease but less pollutants are emitted.
At work, there are also ways of reducing consumption cost and emissions.
Check out the suggestions here to keep your workplace environmentally-friendly:
- Use less biomass (charcoal, firewood) and avoid open burning
- Use less polluting domestic stoves; opt for alternative fuels such as gas or electricity;
- When purchasing a new car, consider one that is the most efficient, lowest-polluting vehicle or even a zero-emission electric car.
- Instead of driving, walk or ride a bicycle whenever possible
- Consider using public transport rather than individual cars
- When driving, accelerate gradually and obey the speed limit. Drive less, particularly on days with unhealthy air quality levels or in hours of potential heavy traffic;.
- Regularly maintain your vehicle and keep the tires properly inflated.
- Turn off the lights when you leave your room or office. Also turn off office equipment, computers, printers and fax machine, before leaving office
- Replace energy-hungry incandescent lights with compact fluorescent light bulbs.
- Limit the use of air conditioners both at work and at home and opt for natural ventilation
- Plant trees; trees can help reduce some form of air pollution
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