SA faces much more serious problem of indoor air pollution: study

28 September 2016 - 11:36 By Ernest Mabuza

The South African population faces a far more serious problem of indoor pollution compared to outdoor pollution‚ the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) said. The think tank produced a paper on air quality which found that low indoor air quality affected 20% of the population‚ with most of the burden falling on poor black households.The report said when examining the country’s air quality‚ the media and activists focused too often on mining and industrial pollution‚ and the liability of corporations and state-owned enterprises.It said while the scrutiny was not wrong‚ it lost sight of the problem that was not only more prevalent but much more difficult to solve: indoor air pollution.“The burden falls most heavily on the black population. Low indoor air quality affects 24% of black households‚ 9% of coloured households and only 1% of white or Indian households.”It said throughout the country‚ but mainly in rural areas‚ one third of South African households burnt solid fuels such as wood‚ cow dung and coal to cook and keep warm‚ according to a study published by the South African Medical Journal.The institute said the problem of indoor air pollution accounted for higher healthcare costs‚ hindered adult productivity‚ lowered school attendance among children and degraded the environment.Some 20% of South African households suffered the health effects of exposure to contaminated indoor air.“It may cause or contribute to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease‚ lung and other cancers‚ tuberculosis‚ cataracts‚ low birth weight and perinatal mortality‚ asthma‚ ear infections‚ cardiovascular disease‚ and most seriously‚ acute lower respiratory infections (ALRI) in children.“ALRIs are the world’s single leading cause of death among children less than five years old and among the top four killers of South Africans under five. Indoor air pollution accounts for the deaths of 1‚400 South African children per year.”The institute said by most measures‚ the foul air circulating inside the homes of South Africa’s poor was worse than the ambient dirty air found scarring a few industrial hotspots.The report said electrification was the cleanest way to reduce indoor air pollution‚ but 3.4-million households remained off the grid.Significant progress had been made with electrification reaching about 76% of the population‚ but the poor cannot always afford electricity.Even some electrified households continued to burn solid fuels for cooking and heating.The institute said lighting cleaner indoor brazier fires was another way of improving household air.Other ways to reduce indoor air pollution proposed by the institute include the introduction of cleaner-burning braziers and stoves‚ the phasing in of cleaner-burning and low smoke fuels‚ better insulation in low income housing and improved access to access to liquefied petroleum gas. - TMG Digital..

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