Ambient air pollution is a major contributor to mortality and morbidity. Fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) is especially harmful to health because it can pass lung barriers and enter the blood stream, causing premature deaths, and respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
Globally, exposure to ambient PM 2.5 caused 2.9 million premature deaths in 2017, or about 9 percent of total deaths in the world. In West Africa, it was responsible for about 80,000 premature deaths the same year. The problem is particularly acute in Nigeria which had the highest number of premature deaths due to ambient PM 2.5 in the region.
Lagos, a coastal city of 24 million people, exemplifies how air quality is upending Africa megacities’ growth, health and livelihoods. Despite growing concern about air pollution, there is currently no reliable estimate of the impact of ambient air pollution, nor a comprehensive air pollution control plan.
The study ‘The Cost of Air Pollution in Lagos’ addresses these knowledge gaps. It estimates the impact of ambient PM 2.5 on health, analyzes the main pollution sources, and recommends a set of possible options to control air pollution in Lagos.
- The study estimates that illness and premature deaths due to ambient air pollution caused losses of $2.1 billion in 2018, representing 2.1% of Lagos State’s GDP.
- In 2018, ambient air pollution led to about11,200 premature deaths, the highest in West Africa. Children under five were the most affected, accounting for 60 percent of total deaths while adults suffered from heart disease, lung cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
- While WHO recommends an acceptable annual mean PM2.5 concentration level of 10 μg/m3, Lagos has recorded levels of 68 μg/m3, in the same range as other polluted megacities such as Beijing (73 μg/m3), Cairo (76 μg/m3) and Mumbai (64 μg/m3).
- Road transport is the main source of ambient air pollution. Each day, 227 vehicles clog each kilometer of road. Most vehicles are over 15 years old, using old emission technologies and fuel with high sulfur levels: 200 times higher than U.S. standards for diesel.
- Industrial emissions are the second source of air pollution. Industrial and commercial zones like Apapa, Idumota, Ikeja and Odogunyan, where cement, chemicals, furniture, refinery, steel industries are concentrated, have high levels of pollution. In Odogunyan, a PM2.5 concentration of 1 770 μg/m3 was recorded in a period of 24h.
- Generators supply half of Lagos’ total energy demand and are the third source of air pollution. The poor combustion of the gasoline and oil used to operate the generators pollutes the air and causes huge health damage.
- The World Bank Pollution Management and Environment Health Program (PMEH) offers opportunities to collaborate with the Lagos State Government to create incentives and policies that will improve the air quality.
- Air quality investment shortfalls can be curtailed through innovative financing. The IFC ‘s Breath Better Bond offers opportunities to tackle air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions by investing in climate-friendly infrastructure projects.