News / Africa

Global Air Pollution Threat Grows

A man wears a mask as he walks to cross a street shrouded by haze in Beijing, China, Jan. 10, 2012.
A man wears a mask as he walks to cross a street shrouded by haze in Beijing, China, Jan. 10, 2012.

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua
A lot of attention is being paid to greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. But scientists warn that other pollutants may make it harder to breathe in some places in years to come.



By the year 2050, taking a deep breath in eastern China, northern India, the Middle East and North Africa could be hazardous to your health. That’s what a new study says unless nations take action now to curb air pollution.

Dr. Andrea Pozzer of Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Chemistry says that “strong actions and effective legislation are essential to avoid a drastic deterioration of air quality.” He says there are five main air pollutants.

“Sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide. Then we have nitrogen dioxide, ozone, and finally we have this so-called PM2.5 – particulate matter, which is below 2.5 micrometers. That’s the size of the particulate matter,” he said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says particles of 2.5 micrometers are “small enough to invade even the smallest airways,” such as deep inside the lungs. These pollutants are not the same as those that contribute to climate change.

He said, “The ones driving global warming are so-called greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide and methane, for example, and ozone as well. While in this case these pollutants needed for air quality calculation are rather different. And in this case, these are traces and gasses that are more dangerous for human health.”

Pozzer said the particles that pollute come from both nature and humans, also referred to as anthropogenic emissions.

“This could be natural dust, for example, in the desert where you find a lot of particles. So there’s a very high concentration of PM2.5, or even in very polluted locations like close to a factory. When there are smoke films coming out, these generally contain [a[ high level of particles. Let’s take, for example, sulfur dioxide. These are emitted by volcanoes and at the same time it’s manmade, also emitted by factories. And in this case nowadays anthropogenic emissions are by far the major emitters of sulfur dioxide,” he said.

India and China have rapidly growing economies, and with growth comes greater pollution. Pozzer said it’s happened before.

“Let’s suppose for U.S. or Europe. This would have been the same during the 60s and the 70s and the 80s. Big growth in the economy, and there was the appearance of acid rains and so on. So it’s history that comes back,” he said.

He said China, India and the Middle Eastern and North African countries should take strong action before 2025. He calls that year the “tipping point” when air pollution could start getting extremely bad.

While North African countries could face worsening air pollution, sub-Saharan African countries could be largely spared.

He said, “There will be local pollution due to these megacities or huge cities that they will form of course – an increase of population. So very localized hotspots like huge cities, while in general, in Africa, the air will be more than clean I would say.”

Pozzer added that China, India and the other countries should follow the example of the U.S. and Europe in curbing air pollution. He says while pollution controls are expensive, they pay for themselves through better health of the population.

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid