Skip to main content

Air pollution in Africa now more deadly than malnutrition, says OECD study

News   •   Oct 22, 2016 05:41 GMT

Traffic jam in Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria and the African continent. Lagos is one of the fastest growing cities in the world.

Stockholm, Sweden, October 22, 2016 – The human and economic costs of air pollution in Africa are growing fast, says a new OECD Development Centre study on the Cost of Air Pollution in Africa. In fact, the report says, air pollution costs are already surpassing the costs associated with unsafe sanitation or underweight children and the authors warn that without bold policy changes in Africa’s urbanisation policies, these costs might explode.

"The mounting toll on human health of air pollution across Africa cannot be ignored and the air quality issue needs to be put firmly on the political agenda alongside the other health, education and infrastructure challenges facing the continent," said Bengt Rittri, founder and CEO of Blueair, a world leader in indoor air cleaning technologies.

Building on the OECD’s methodology to assess the Economic Consequences of Outdoor Air Pollution for OECD countries, China and India, the OECD paper provides new, critical evidence on the economic cost of the impact of air pollution on human lives for African countries.

Between 1990 and 2013, total annual deaths from outdoor air pollution -- ambient particulate matter pollution (APMP), mostly caused by road transport, power generation or industry -- rose by 36% to around 250 000, according to the OECD paper. Over the same period of time, deaths caused by household air pollution (HAP) --caused by polluting forms of domestic energy use -- rose by 18%, from a higher base, to well over 450 000.

For Africa as a whole, the estimated economic cost of those premature deaths is around USD215 billion for outdoor air pollution in 2013, and around USD232 billion for household air pollution. And this is in spite of slow industrialisation, and even de-industrialisation in many countries, the OECD report notes.