Environmental pollution is defined as “the contamination of the physical and biological components of the earth/atmosphere system to such an extent that normal environmental processes are adversely affected. The major kinds of pollution, usually classified by environment, are air pollution, water pollution, and land pollution. Modern society is also concerned about specific types of pollutants, such as noise pollution, light pollution, and plastic pollution. Pollution of all kinds can have negative effects on the environment and wildlife and often impacts human health and well-being.
Air pollution has become a leading risk factor for premature death in Ghana. The introduction of dangerous levels of toxic air, mainly from car exhaust, rubbish fires, road dust and soot from biomass-fuelled cook stoves, is killing thousands of people in Ghana every year. This is due to the ignorance of most Ghanaian citizen of the effect of air pollution to human health. It is known by few that open burning of refuse is unlawful, it still remain as one of the most contributing causes of air pollution in Ghana. Care takers at designated dumping site usually set fire to the "mountain" of waste to reduce its volume and enhance collection of waste of the subsequent days. However, this pose a serious threat to human health, particularly, areas closer to these dumping sites. The refuse do not burn rapidly due to its moist and higher percentage of organic by-products. A continuous bad-smelling thick concentrated smoke then becomes the output of such exercise. Other causes may include, toxic smoke from car exhaust especially old and rickety “trotro”, dust from unpaved roads and the burning of biomass which include the reliance on solid fuels such as charcoal and wood for cooking in open fires and leaky stoves indoors and on the streets (food vendors).
According to the figures from the WHO, about 203 out of every 100,000 deaths in Ghana are air pollution-related. Ghana’s mortality rate for air pollution in 2012 was 80 for every 100,000 people. Our physical and psychological wellbeing is affected differently by the kind of air pollution we are exposed to. There are many organs and bodily functions that can be harmed, the consequences including: respiratory diseases, cardiovascular damage fatigue, headaches and anxiety, irritation of the eyes, nose and throat damage, harm to the liver, spleen and blood and nervous system damage. The diagram below shows the number of death attributed to air pollution in Ghana.(1990-2107)
Also air pollution is a major contributor to global warming and climate change. The abundance of carbon dioxide in the air is one of the causes of the greenhouse effect. Normally, the presence of greenhouse gases should be beneficial for the planet because they absorb the infra-red radiation produced by the surface of the earth. But the excessive concentration of these gases in the atmosphere is the cause of the recent climate change which in tend causes harm to the health of the individual.
Poor air quality has harmful effects on human health, particularly the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. As a result, reducing pollutants in the air is important for human health and the environment. This can be done by the use pollution control devices to remove pollutants by absorbing, filtering, diluting or dispersing them by industries and other air pollution control measures by individuals.
DR. KINGSLEY PREKO
DR. T. DERRICK
PHYSICIAN ASSISTANT STUDIES
UNIVERSITY OF CAPE COAST