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15.09.2005 Health

Vehicular fumes affecting our health

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A GNA Feature by Fauziyah Sai (AIJC Intern)

Accra, Sept. 13, GNA - City dwellers are increasingly being exposed to the danger of large amounts of carbon monoxide in the atmosphere in recent times.

Carbon monoxide emission from automobiles takes the lives of many people and additionally inflicts incalculable damage on the environment, according to environmentalists.

Carbon monoxide is a chemical asphyxiate, which if inhaled in sufficient concentration, could be very fatal, according to scientific literature review.

Approximately 80 per cent to 90 per cent of inhaled carbon monoxide binds with the haemoglobin in blood cells to result in acute reduction in the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood. This hazardous substance gives no noticeable indication of its presence in the air. Even though it is a greenhouse gas, it influences environmental chemistry.

According to research material, carbon monoxide emitted by diesel cars at low concentrations, causes fatigue in healthy people and chest pain in people with heart disease. In higher concentrations, it impairs vision, causes headaches and dizziness. It destabilises people as well as makes some develop nausea.

Research has proved that diesel exhaust contains thousands of gaseous substances that impact negatively on the skin and makes it unpleasant.

Gaseous particles can penetrate into the deep regions of the lungs, where, if retained, can possibly affect certain biological activities in humans.

The role of elemental carbon in diesel particulate has gained significant prominence in relation to adverse health effects and emissions have been shown to influence such factors as engine type, duty cycle and fuel quality and engine maintenance.

It also causes respiratory toxicity that results in acute and chronic pulmonary conditions including local irritating bronchitis, cancer and so on.

Indeed, chronic exposure to benzene (a component of gasoline fuel) leads to the decreased production of all types of blood cells and untimely leukaemia, a cancerous proliferation of white blood cells. A recent study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed high level of lead in the blood of residents of Accra as a result of increased vehicular emissions.

The EPA recognising the enormity of the problem said it was taking measures to curb environmental pollution caused by fumes from vehicles. Mr William Abaidoo, Public Relations Officer of the EPA, says the collaborative effort with the Motor Traffic Transport Unit (MTTU) of the Police Service would involve the use of a computer device to check the pollution level of vehicles.

Speaking to the Ghana News Agency in an interview in Accra he warned that vehicles, which emitted high levels of smoke, would be withdrawn from the roads.

Mr Abaidoo suggested that a law should be passed to curb environmental pollution caused by the emissions saying this was necessary since Ghana had not adopted standards of emission to determine the level of vehicular pollution, which was inimical to public health. He says the only regulation on the emission of fumes is in the MTTU Act (1974), which states: "No vehicle or person shall emit smoke into the environment to the annoyance of passengers or people." Mr Abaidoo said high rate of emission of fumes could lead to climatic change, which could have an adverse effect on agricultural productivity.

"Carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide could cause climate change and affect the rainfall pattern." Mr Abaidoo asked the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Authority, Ghana Private Road Transport Union and the Ministry of Health to collaborate to ensure fume-free Ghana.

Since fumes directly affect individuals, it is imperative for them to collaborate with the appropriate agencies to fight this seeming devastating problem, Mr Abaidoo said. 13 Sept. 05

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