Air pollution claims 14,000+ Kenyans each year: UN

Air pollution claims 14,000+ Kenyans each year: UN

Lack of awareness leads to inaction, says the UN's Achim Steiner, so Nairobi is installing 7 air quality monitoring devices

By Magdalene Mukami

NAIROBI, Kenya (AA) - Rising pollution levels worldwide kill some 7 million people annually, including 14,000 in Kenya from indoor pollution alone, according to a new UN report.

Air pollution levels around the globe have risen by 8 percent since 2013, said the report, titled “Action on Air Quality”, released at the five-day Second United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in the Kenyan capital of Nairobi, set to last through Friday.

Most African countries rely on solid fuels such as wood, charcoal, and kerosene stoves for cooking, all which lead to premature deaths.

The new report explains that even though most households have increased access to cleaner fuels, many opt for solid fuels which are both cheap and reliable.

“Wherever you live on this planet, air quality remains something that needs our attention locally, nationally and collectively around the globe,” said Achim Steiner, outgoing head of the UN Environment Program.

Steiner, who is set to step down next month, said that despite the premature deaths in many African nations, they are doing little to address the problem. This is because they are not aware, as they lack devices which monitor air quality, he said.

Nor has Kenya been an exception to this, but that will soon change.

“Here in the city of Nairobi as we speak, we are having seven air quality monitoring devices being installed that we have developed with scientists and are being tested. We are indeed making progress on air pollution, but the fact remains that many people are still breathing air outside of World Health Organization standards,” said Steiner.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Nairobi’s air can cause serious heart ailments, and also contains cancer-causing elements 10 times higher than the recommended maximum threshold.

Kenya’s congested Matatu (minibus) transport industry, which often uses second hand vehicles, has further worsened the situation due to high emissions of poisonous gases from vehicles.

The report commends 97 countries, including Kenya, that have made it their goal to see that households have access to clean fuel and reduced emissions. It says that this has played a major role in tackling air pollution around the globe.

“Kenya is among the countries which has harmonized low sulfur fuel standards. This has greatly improved the air quality in this region,” said Rob de Jong, head of the UNEP Transport Unit.

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