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 of child deaths in Nigeria and other sub Sahara countries in Africa.
The research team examined the combined data of more than 15 years 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 the School of Earth Sciences, Energy and the environment at Stanford.
“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.”
The researchers, in the report released on Wednesday, said even small decreases in the amount of particulates in the air can result in a substantial decrease in infant deaths and that 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 researcher at the Stanford Food and Environmental Safety Center.
“Then we must establish how these improvements can be realized.”
The problem of air pollution in Africa has become a growing concern for international research organizations.
Last year, a study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development found that air pollution is responsible for more deaths in the region of sub-Saharan Africa than malnutrition or dirty water.