Air pollution causes 20% of infant deaths in sub-Saharan Africa

According to a study published by Stanford University and the University of California at San Diego in the United States, air pollution is responsible for one in five child deaths in Nigeria and other sub-Sahara countries in Africa.

The research team examined more than 15 years of combined data of about 1 million births in 30 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and found that particle satellite measurements contributed to 20% of infant deaths.

Particles are a mixture of small particles and liquid droplets in the air that, once inhaled, can damage the heart and lungs.

“Many rich countries have recently used legislation to clean their air,” said Marshall Burke, co-author of the study and assistant professor of Earth System Science at Stanford’s School of Earth Sciences, Energy and the environment.

“We see that if African countries could reduce particulate matter like rich countries, the benefits for child health could be greater than most current health interventions, such as vaccinations or dietary and water supplements.”

In the report released, the researchers said even small decreases in the number of particulates in the air could result in a substantial reduction in infant deaths. Finding cost-effective ways to improve air should be a political priority and research.

“We now have a better idea of the tremendous benefits of improving air quality for child health,” said Sam Heft-Neal, a Stanford Food and Environmental Safety Center researcher.

“Then we must establish how these improvements can be realized.”

The air pollution problem in Africa has become a growing concern for international research organizations.

A study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found that air pollution is responsible for more deaths in sub-Saharan Africa than malnutrition or dirty water.

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