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Nairobi air unfit for human respiration

Nairobi is among world’s cities  whose air is unfit for human respiration owing to high levels of pollution.

The United Nations’ World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that urban dwellers are being exposed to excessive air pollution and are at a risk of respiratory diseases and long-term health problems.

Air quality in most urban areas worldwide fails to meet WHO safety guidelines, putting people at risk of serious health problems, the agency said in a press release issued along with its 2014 urban ambient air quality database.

Health risks

The agency said the new information calls for greater awareness of health risks caused by air pollution, implementation of effective air pollution prevention policies, and close monitoring of the situation in cities worldwide.

The WHO database covers 1,600 cities across 91 countries – 500 more cities than the previous database (2011), revealing that more cities worldwide are monitoring outdoor air quality, reflecting growing recognition of air pollution health risks.

According to the database, only 12 per cent of the people living in cities have air quality complying with WHO guideline levels.

About half of the urban population being monitored is exposed to air pollution that is at least 2.5 times higher than the levels WHO recommends.

In most cities where there is enough data to compare the situation today with previous years, air pollution is getting worse. Many factors contribute to the situation, including reliance on fossil fuels such as coal fired power plants, dependence on private transport motor vehicles, inefficient use of energy in buildings, and the use of biomass for cooking and heating.

“Too many urban centres today are so enveloped in dirty air that their skylines are invisible,” said Dr Flavia Bustreo, WHO Assistant Director-General for Family, Children and Women’s Health.

Some cities are making notable improvements — demonstrating that air quality can be improved by implementing policy measures such as banning the use of coal for “space heating” in buildings.