U.S and Ghana Environmental Agency collaborate to reduce air pollution

Pollution is one of the most significant environmental contributors to premature deaths in Africa, outpacing that of malaria and HIV. Yet for many African governments, addressing air pollution is not a pressing concern. From its research, the W.H.O says, one in eight of today’s global deaths  a result of exposure to air pollution.

Over 45,000 African children under the age of five according to reports, die annually due to air pollution, which is one of the highest regional child mortality rates in the world. In Ghana, the Environmental protection Agency with the support of the World Bank, the University of Ghana, the US EPA and the US Embassy in Accra have installed three new state of the art air quality monitoring sites at the University of Ghana and the St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Basic School at Adabraka. The latest is on the premises of the US Embassy here in Accra.

The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are working together to record air quality at U.S. Embassies and Consulates around the globe. This informed the installation of the air quality monitor (AQM) as one health resource for the U.S. citizen community.  The monitor measures Particulate Matter (PM) in the air on and near the Embassy compound. 

“These monitoring stations help scientists, researchers, government officials, and the public understand the data in real-time, as we work together to identify and mitigate sources of harmful air pollution.  Air pollution, just like the climate crisis, threatens our health and our prosperity.  We are happy to work today with our partners to share information that can lead to solutions,” said U.S. Ambassador Stephanie S. Sullivan.

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“The partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA and other stakeholders, will help the government of Ghana meet its 2030 pledge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and contribute to the Climate change agenda”,  the Ambassador added.

The EPA, Act 490 mandates the EPA Ghana to co-manage, protect and enhance the country’s environment and seek common solutions to global environmental problems. To achieve this goal, the Agency collaborates with government agencies and other institutions to take action to reduce air pollution and bring transformative change to lifestyles.

“Current air pollution conditions characterized by more than 15 years of pollution data collected by EPA Ghana and supported with measures from the new monitors, present an unacceptable health burden for the people of Accra. Air pollution exceeds national standards and international health guidelines. Ghana’s situation is dire and must not be taken for granted”.  “Pollution data measured at these sites will be used by EPA Ghana to create strategies that target major pollution sources to improve air quality and health in Accra”, said Henry Kwabena Kokofu, Executive Director of EPA Ghana.

“Every one, he noted is guilty of one pollution or another, from the factory operator to the fish monger to the driver with a week car engine. We have resolved to create massive awareness and we urge the media to help us in this drive.”

All three monitors measure particulate matter (PM) 2.5 black carbon (a component of PM2.5) as well as weather data, such as temperature, relative humidity, pressure, wind speed, and wind direction.  The particulate matter monitors, black carbon analyzers, and weather stations will provide high quality data on a continuous basis. 

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These high-quality instruments complement a number of low-cost air quality sensors, which are located in residential, industrial, commercial, and roadside areas. The combined network of high-quality and low-cost devices dramatically improves our understanding of air quality in Accra. Data from all three monitoring stations will enable government agencies to inform the public about the current level of air quality and steps the public can take to reduce exposure to pollution.  This data can also help the Ghana EPA and the Accra Metropolitan Assembly formulate strategies, policies, and decisions to reduce air pollution and improve public health. 

By Rebekah Awuah | [email protected]