Air pollution levels in Ghana in 2020 were worse than those in Uganda2, Nigeria3, and Angola.
Air pollution is a major risk factor for premature death in Ghana.
More than 28,000 people die each year from air pollution in Ghana, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Roughly around 7 million people die prematurely from air pollution worldwide every year, the WHO estimates show. Mainly from diseases such as stroke, lung cancer, heart disease, and respiratory infections, including pneumonia.
Particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution kills more people worldwide than wars, malaria, HIV/AIDS, and smoking, according to a new study by the European Society of Cardiology. The research was published in the journal Cardiovascular Research4 in March 2020.
Other recent studies have linked air pollution to increased risk for miscarriage5, up to 3.4 million preterm births6, mental illness7, brain cells damage8, cognitive impairment in children9, and a ‘huge’ reduction in intelligence10.
See other latest air pollution research findings at the bottom of this page.
Victims of climate change are already here but shunned, left to fight their own battles. The future of towns and villages in southeast Ghana hangs in the balance in a time of climate crisis. Deeply distressed due to their traps and fishing nets catching dead and rotten crabs and fish, the men in the photographs below have taken matters into their own hands.
Ambient air pollution in Ghana is characterized by natural and anthropogenic sources.
Climate variability, rapid urbanization, and trends in population growth in urban areas are having a tremendous impact on air quality in Ghana.
Major sources of outdoor air pollution in Ghana include:
Toxic exhaust fumes from road traffic — emissions from old and rickety trotros (local minibus taxis), taxis, and trucks.
Open burning of residential trash due to poor municipal waste management.
Resuspended dust. Ghanaian roads are mostly unpaved and dusty.
Indoor air pollution kills just as many people as outdoor air pollution. Biomass-fueled cookstoves are the main culprits in many developing countries, including Ghana.
According to the State of Global Air Report 201911, more than 70% of people in Ghana use solid fuels such as charcoal and wood to cook food in open fires and inefficient cookstoves.
How Does IQAir Collects Data?
IQAir AirVisual uses data collected from ground-based monitoring stations that measure levels of PM2.5, ultrafine particles of 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, which are known to pose serious risks to human health.
The data are collected from government monitoring stations as well as validated monitors operated by private individuals and organizations.
The report did not include measurements for gaseous air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and ground-level ozone.
What Does IQAir AirVisual’s 2020 World Air Quality Report Say About Air Pollution in Ghana?
According to the IQAir AirVisual’s 2020 World Air Quality Report, Ghana averaged PM2.5 concentration of 26.9 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m3) during the period of the study. This exceeds the WHO recommended annual guideline of 5 µg/m3 (September 2021 WHO update).
Ghana’s annual mean concentrations of PM2.5 in 2016 was 31.1 µg/m3, more than 6 times above the safe limits recommended by the WHO.
See the WHO most recent global air pollution database here.
The World Bank widget above — with some missing data values — shows Ghana’s PM2.5 mean annual exposure between 1990 and 2017. The annual mean concentrations of 35 µg/m3 (2017) above is 7 times above the safe limits recommended by the WHO.
Ghana’s dirty air is the 24th worst in the world, according to the IQAir 2020 report. Immediately below Iran, but worse than Saudi Arabia, both renowned for airborne particulate matter from dust storms12. Severe dust storms frequently blanket certain parts of Iran and Saudi Arabia, making air quality worse.
There were only 4 installed IQAir monitors in Ghana, all in the Greater Accra Region. The monitors were installed by private individuals and organizations.
“The participation of many groups and citizens who operate their own air quality monitors and have made this data publicly available, has increased data coverage significantly. If it were not for these valuable contributions, there would be no publicly available data in Angola, the Bahamas, Cambodia, DR Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Latvia, Nigeria, Syria, and Ukraine, ” the report acknowledged.
The participation of many groups and citizens who operate their own air quality monitors and have made this data publicly available, has increased data coverage significantly. If it were not for these valuable contributions, there would be no publicly available data in Angola, the Bahamas, Cambodia, DR Congo, Egypt, Ghana, Latvia, Nigeria, Syria, and Ukraine.
IQAir visual’s 2019 world air quality report
Ghana’s EPA does some air quality monitoring — only in some parts of the Greater Accra Region — but their data are not publicly accessible.
Ghana’s EPA does not issue air pollution alerts even when poor air quality is expected to impact health.
Read more about Ghana’s air pollution problems here:
Researchers14 from the University of Surrey have discovered that drivers in poorer cities are exposed to higher levels of in-car particulate pollution when they open their car windows for ventilation. Turning on the recirculation function exposed commuters to around 80 percent less fine particles than those who open their car windows, the study found.
A new study has linked living near a highway (road traffic pollution) to dementia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis. The study was published in the journal Environmental Health.
Exposure to particulate air pollutants may lead to lower sperm production in mice, a study presented at the Endocrine Society’s 2019 annual meeting in New Orleans has found.
Examining “16 years’ worth” of data from 68.5 million people, researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health15 have found a strong causal link between exposure to air pollution and early death in the US.
How would you tackle Ghana’s dirty air problems? Leave your comment below.
Hi, Muntaka Chasant here. I'm, among many other things, an entrepreneur and a documentary photographer. I'm here on the front lines of urban struggle — only with my wits and cameras — capturing key moments, collecting untold stories, and helping to forge new paths.