Air pollution in Nairobi a threat to reproductive health

Monday March 2 2015

Traffic jam in Nairobi. The Southern Bypass

Traffic jam in Nairobi. The Southern Bypass will now be re-opened tomorrow after the contractor completes gravelling it. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

FRANCIS MUREITHI
By FRANCIS MUREITHI
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The worsening quality of air in Nairobi due to traffic congestion may interfere with the reproductive health of the residents living in highly polluted areas in the city.

According to Prof Shem Wandiga, a leading researcher at the University of Nairobi, the small quantities of the chemicals inhaled by the residents in areas such as Westlands, Uthiru, and Kikuyu will in the long run disrupt their reproductive systems.

“I want to indicate here that a research carried by the University of Nairobi shows that these types of chemicals though taken in small qualities are a big concern to us as some of them will interfere with the reproductive systems of the residents,” said Prof Wandigah.

At the same time the don said that experts are worried because children born, raised and living in an areas which are heavily polluted due to the never ending traffic jams have little chance reaching the age of 50 with their lungs.

“The chemical emitted from the vehicles are acidic in nature and are corrosive and they will react with body tissues and hence increases cases of asthma and deadly lung diseases,” said Prof Wandiga.

Interestingly, other spots in the city whose air quality assessment was carried out and are heavily polluted include the University of Nairobi Main campus, Wilson Airport, Mombasa road’s St James Hospital area, Athi River, and Ngong forest.

EXCEEDS WHO GUIDELINES

He said the concentration of particulate matter was significantly high and exceeded the World Health Organization (WHO) 24 hours guidelines of 150 – 230 grams per cubic meters for ambient air.

The research found out that Vipingo area in Kilifi had the cleanest air while areas such as Kibos in Kisumu County, Lodwar and Lokichar in Turkana County had minimal concentration of harmful chemicals.

He made the revelations while addressing more than 50 journalists and experts from Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, and India who were attending the first India-Africa Dialogue and Media workshop on air quality and mobility Eastlands Hotel in Nairobi on Saturday.

The one day workshop was organised by leading Indian think tank, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and Nairobi-based Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (Mesha) Kenya Chapter.

Prof Wandiga noted with concern that there were still high levels of banned DDT pesticides in the air as stockpiles of DDT which had been incinerated at an obsolete dumpsite were still being released from contaminated soil and this was impacting on air quality.

“Pesticide residues have been detected in mothers’ milk samples due to contamination from environment and through food,” he said.

He said that cement factories in Athi River were emitting a lot of dust in the air which may have impact as the dust may contain chemicals and metals.

“The government should compel the cement factories to enforce the technology of reducing harmful chemical emissions in the air so as to protect the health of Kenyans which is guaranteed in the Constitution,” said Prof Wandiga.

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