Small quantities of chemicals as a result of air pollution inhaled by men in developing countries Including Uganda interfere with their ability to father children, researchers have said.
Prof Shem Wandiga, a researcher at the University of Nairobi said the effect of air pollution is being felt in some parts of Kenya (Westlands, Uthiru, and Kikuyu).
“Male sperm count has gone down in some parts. We are concerned about air pollution because we want to leave the world the way we found it,” he noted.
He was addressing journalists and experts from Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, South Africa and India who were attending the first India-Africa Dialogue and Media workshop on air quality and mobility Eastlands Hotel in Nairobi.
The one-day workshop was organised by leading Indian think tank, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and Nairobi-based Media for Environment, Science, Health and Agriculture (Mesha) Kenya Chapter.
He said that air pollution is one of the major and most prevalent forms of environmental pollution worldwide.
The researcher said that experts are worried that children born, raised and living in areas which are heavily polluted have little chance reaching the age of 50 with their lungs.
He explained that the chemical emitted from the vehicles are acidic and corrosive which increases cases of asthma and deadly lung diseases.
Wandiga mentioned industrial activities and emissions, vehicles, construction and agricultural activities, incineration and wind-blown dust are some of the main contributors of hazardous air pollutants.
Anumita Roychowdhury, the executive director, Center for Science and Environment said over 176,000 people die annually of air pollution in Africa. According to the Global Burden of Diseases, the deaths are due to outdoor air pollution.
Diseases caused by outdoor air pollution include: ischaemic heart disease, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), lung cancer and acute lower respiratory infections in children.
This is less than Europe at 279,000 deaths, but Africa needs to be preventive and precautionary, Anumita noted.
She said that there are several indicative results from studies that signal a serious public health. The UN Economic Commission of Africa has estimated that the cost of air pollution in a number of African cities can be as high as 2.7 per cent of GDP.
Rob Jong, the head of Transport Unit, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said that over 49,000 premature deaths occur annually due to air pollution.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) report around 7 million people died in 2012 due to air pollution.
“This finding more than doubles previous estimates and confirms that air pollution is now the world’s largest single environmental health risk,” the report stated.
The new estimates are not only based on more knowledge about the diseases caused by air pollution, but also upon better assessment of human exposure to air pollutants through the use of improved measurements and technology. This has enabled scientists to make a more detailed analysis of health risks from a wider demographic spread that now includes rural as well as urban areas.
Amanda Ngabirano, a Mekerere University Lecturer in the department of Architecture called for the improvement of public transport in major cities to reduce traffic jam.
She submitted that a multi-modality and relevant transport planning as well as integrating land use would solve traffic jams and transport related problems in developing countries including Uganda.