Air pollution is shortening Nigerians’ lives by an average of three years and four months relative to what life expectancy would be if the country met the World Health Organisation guideline, a new report has said.
The Air Quality Life Index report, released on Wednesday, estimated the number of additional years of life people would gain if air pollution levels in their countries were reduced to WHO guidelines.
It said the average Nigerian could live 4.3 years longer if pollution were reduced to meet the WHO guideline.
“Particulate pollution is a rising health threat in Central and West Africa, where more than 94 per cent of people are exposed to pollution levels that exceed the WHO guideline for safe air,” the report, which was developed by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, said.
According to the report, Nigeria, Benin, and Togo feature in the list of the top 10 most polluted countries in the world.
It said, “Nigeria is the region’s pollution hotspot. In Lagos, home to 20 million people, vehicle emissions due to long commutes and high sulfur content fuel, industrial emissions, and the use of diesel generators in the face of unreliable electricity supply contribute to high levels of urban air pollution.
“Nigerians could see their life expectancy increase by 4.3 years if particulate pollution were permanently reduced to meet the WHO guideline.
“In the Niger Delta, where oil refineries – many illegal – are linked to the grim daily reality of air pollution, life expectancy is 4.7 years lower than what it could be under the WHO guideline. In Onitsha, the most polluted city in Nigeria, residents are losing 5.8 years of life expectancy. There is a similar story across the region.”
Compared to other environmental health risks and prominent communicable diseases in Nigeria, air pollution is second only to HIV/AIDS in terms of its impact on life expectancy – shaving off more years than unsafe water and sanitation and malaria, according to the report.
It said, “In Africa, energy consumption is expected to grow more rapidly than ever before: the projected increase in coal consumption between 2017 and 2040 is expected to be more than three times the increase observed between 1995 and 2017; and natural gas consumption is projected to increase by more than twice that observed from 1995 to 2017.
“Unless actions are taken to address this growth in future emissions, air pollution will only become a greater problem in Africa.”