Particle pollution or particulate matter (P.M.), is defined as a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets that get into the air. Outdoor pollution is a mixture of chemicals, particulate matter, and biological materials that react with each other to form tiny hazardous particles. These pollutions, when inhaled may cause breathing problems, chronic diseases, increased hospitalization and premature mortality.
P.M. concentrations in the atmosphere is a key indicator of the quality of air since it is the most common air pollutant that has both long and short term implications on human health. Particulate matter is classified based on its size into two broad groups, the 2 microme and 10 microme groups. The 2 microme group is made of particles with a diameter of less than two micromes, and they are of major concern to medical experts due to their ability to travel into the cardiopulmonary system to cause very dangerous health challenges.
Typical of most developing countries, particulate matter concentrations of Ghana’s atmosphere is gravely high and this could be attributed to transportation and industrial pollution, biomass fuel use, and re-suspended dust from unpaved roads. Wooden stoves and fish smoking has also been implicated to have a significant share in particulate matter/air pollution in Ghana. it is unfortunate to state that, the only city in Ghana that reports to the world health organisation on particulate matter concentrations is Accra, which suggests that the figures obtained for Accra is used to generalise for all cities and communities of Accra and this could be devastative, especially with regards to communities whose concentrations of PM may be far above acceptable standards.
A study conducted by Rashidatu Sulemana in 2016 has revealed that particulate matter concentration of randomly selected communities of the Accra metropolis ranged between 236.00 -150.70 microgram per cubic meter which are so high above the guideline values of both the world health organisation and Ghana’s EPA, 50 and 70 micromes respectively. Ghana is predominantly a farming and mining community with a lot of dryer communities, especially in the northern part of Ghana. Mining activities and mining support companies release particulate into the ambient air.
This concerns of the affected communities on air quality have been airborne particulate matter, emissions of black smoke, noise and vibration. The activities that generate this particulate matter include site clearance and road building, open-pit drilling and blasting, loading and haulage, vehicular movement, ore and waste rock handling as well as heap leach crushing by companies by companies doing heap leach processing. Others include fumes from the roasting of sulphide ores by assay laboratories and in refining processes.
Akabzaa and Darimani in 2001 indicated that results of air quality monitoring for dust in the Tarkwa area (a mining community in Ghana) showed values far above the acceptable, detectable limits for health safety. The EC, WHO and EPA Ghana levels for the pollutants were 50, 70 and 70 grams per cubic metres respectively, but the EPA monitoring station located at the Tarkwa government hospital recorded as high as199 grams per cubic metres. This indicates therefore, that the pollution at mining towns have been quite high and not very safe for the health of the inhabitants of the communities around the mines.
As earlier stated in this report, a host of other activities also contribute immensely to the PM concentrations in the atmosphere, some of such activities are farming, burning of fossil fuel and other biomass, smoking of fishes, wood stoves, untarred roads, and transportation and industrial activities among others. It is therefore important for developing countries like Ghana, to start developing community specific approaches to addressing these PM concentrations, even though it would require financial physical access to alternative fuels for low-income households and communities. It is also very prudent because the development of every nation is proportionate to the health of its inhabitants.
By: Bornaventure Kwame Takpah, (AfEI)