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SAMANTHA SPOONER: Pollution choking city

Driving down the Thika Superhighway, Nairobi coming into view, I could see smog hanging over the city like a giant looming shadow.

It took me back to one of my  geography classes at school where I learned that taking a breath of air in Mexico City was the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes; thousands of deaths a year were attributed to air pollution.

The city was plagued by high concentrations of all sorts of harmful airborne pollutants which include carbon monoxide, sulphur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides.

I remember looking at images of a skyline which was a blurry haze because of all the smog.

At the time it felt like this was a world away, surely Nairobi didn’t suffer from all the afflictions of an industrialising nation pumping out tonnes of fumes!

But it’s incredible how fast things can change. In the case of Mexico City the air quality went from being clean to among the world’s dirtiest in the span of a generation.

Over the past few years Nairobi has experienced rapid growth and we don’t really know how bad things are.

Air pollutants

Air quality monitoring doesn’t appear to be one of the government’s top priorities despite the huge implications it could have for public health.

In most cities motor vehicle emissions are said to be the major source of air pollutants, particularly in areas with high traffic density.

Unlike developed countries, not much research has been done in Kenya, particularly with regards to car air pollution.

Now, if you’ve been on Nairobi’s roads over the last couple of years you’ll know that we practically drive on top of each other.

Vehicle ownership has boomed.

I did some digging and the Kenya Motor Vehicle Trade Market has recorded an astonishing increase in the purchase of cars of over 100 per cent annually in the last seven years.

If things don’t change there are a whole host of health risks that we can look forward to, such as; respiratory infections, heart disease and lung cancer.

The burden of  these diseases will be great.

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