…Targets huge emission drop in the continent
TUE, 15 DEC, 2020-theGBJournal- A call has been made on the need for sweeping legislation in Africa aimed at combating the effects of a warming planet, as well as save the lives of many of her people.
Research has shown that currently, there’s no strict legislation across African countries that guides, regulates or checks emissions from vehicles and generator engines.
Whereas in Europe for instance, exposure to particulate matter (PM) decreases the life expectancy of every person by an average of almost one year, every year in the U.S., more than 400 people die and approximately 50,000 people visit an emergency room from accidental carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
Dr Elisabeth Källström, a Volvo Construction Equipment Diagnostic Engineer said simple statistics like these can be the catalyst to help push for positive change when people fully understand the impacts of air pollution on their health and talk to their representatives at the legislative houses to pass changing legislation.
According to Dr Elisabeth Källström, useful statistics like the afore-mentioned are nonexistent, disclosing that it is a narrative she is out to change.
She told Volvo (www.volvoce.com) that it was a global emissions map presented during a Volvo course in 2019 on diesel engine emission after treatment that brought this to light.
“I discovered that in more developed countries like the U.S., Canada, Australia and most E.U. countries, ultralow sulfur diesel with a maximum of 10 to 15 parts per million (ppm) of sulfur has been the norm for years but in the vast majority of African countries, over 2,000 ppm is allowed nearly a 20,000 per cent increase,” she said.
To further take up a hands-on approach to discovering the effects of emissions on Africa and her people, in February 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic first began spreading, Elisabeth decided to take a six-month unpaid leave of absence from Eskilstuna to Lagos, Nigeria to work firsthand on her Clean Air Initiative.
Dr Elisabeth Källström noted that the passion for changing the emissions legislation across an entire continent doesn’t require an engineering degree to put things in motion, admitting that even though this certainly helps, understanding the basics of air pollution is a critical first step.
With most African countries suffering from epileptic power supply, and most homes still using diesel-powered generators as the source for their own power, analysts believe that the problem with all these generators is that they put out much more than just needed electricity and in the process, emit harmful pollutants that can devastate families.
Elisabeth stated that in the course of her study, she discovered that in many cities across Africa, homes and apartments are clustered together in small confinements, so pollution directed from one window easily makes its way into another, adding that avoiding the toxic fumes is nearly impossible.
“The fumes are made up of nitrogen oxide (NOx), the pollutant that causes acid rain and smog. In high concentrations, it causes inflammation of the airways that can lead to asthma, bronchitis, cardiovascular disease, cancer and more.
“It’s also not uncommon to see an entire family lose their lives due to carbon monoxide (CO) exposure. Tragically, they’re often found in the exact position they were in when they went to sleep at night. Additional particulate matter (PM) and hydrocarbons (HC) also cause irreversible lung, liver and kidney damage,” she disclosed.
Elisabeth who has found some initial success educating both government officials and citizens through social media, with a focus on the dangers of inhaling these types of pollutants, noted that understanding what these compounds and particles do to the human body is an obvious first step for change.
In a bid to advance her work, Elisabeth launched a nonprofit organization- the Elisabeth Källström Clean Air for Africa Initiative, focused on creating awareness and advocacy that will promote renewable energy, proper waste management and legislation around emissions levels to promote clean air in Africa.
Elisabeth told volvoce.com that replacing dirty generators with clean solar power is a good first step, disclosing that her NGO is also working to help install free solar panels in various communities to create mini-grids of cleaner, more sustainable power, much like they have in more developed African countries like Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa.
She further disclosed that she is also working on three different air quality research projects through two Nigerian universities: the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka and the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
The focus of the research, according to Elisabeth is on measuring air quality from vehicle emissions, in the classroom and in the outdoors as she also plans to measure air quality in confined neighbourhoods to see how much of toxic gas is being emitted.
Elisabeth said it was because of her passion to bring the desired changes that she is personally funding these efforts all on her own, declaring that her goal is to eventually set up an air quality lab that more universities can use to expand her research efforts.
“With emissions legislation, we can monitor and help Africa set emissions targets,” she says. “And with targets in place, countries can look at vehicle and equipment imports and set restrictions on what can be purchased. It’s an ambitious goal, but I think it’s one worth fighting for.”
Elisabeth has also been spending time educating communities on the importance of properly sorting waste as in many communities, leftover food is mixed in with plastic, metal, batteries and other harmful waste.
She told volvoce.com that oftentimes it’s burned, releasing even more toxic gasses into the atmosphere, adding that when this happens next to a market or farm, the negative impacts on health are even greater.
“African countries have become a dumping ground for ozone-depleting refrigerants that have been globally phased out in other parts of the world. Tighter restrictions and security checks, in African countries as well as in the rest of the world, are needed to keep this type of waste from entering these countries.
“At the end of the day, if the ozone layer is depleting, we’re heating up the planet, and the planet belongs to everyone. You’re putting something in the hands of someone that doesn’t understand what it is, and the consequences can be significant,” she said.
Elisabeth said she has also had discussions with Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Environment to help put together emission legislation for Nigeria.
In addition, she is also setting up the Air Quality Society of Africa with professors in Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya, and two doctors and in Nigeria.
The organization will measure emissions in different parts of the region and have the means to publish the data to help government officials and citizens understand the importance of emissions regulations on health.
“Ten years from now, I would like Africa to have made significant progress on reducing harmful pollutants in homes and even meet the Paris agreement of bringing emission levels down by 2030.
“If we want to hand over a healthier, more sustainable planet to the next generation, Africa has a role to play,” Elisabeth said while talking about her expectations for the initiative at the end of this new decade.