Particulate matter pollution in African cities

Petkova, Elisaveta P.; Jack, Darby W.; Volavka-Close, Nicole H.; Kinney, Patrick L.

Rapid urban population growth, air pollution emissions, and changing patterns of disease in African cities may increase the burden of air pollution-related morbidity and mortality in coming decades. Yet, air monitoring is limited across the continent and many countries lack air quality standards. This paper focuses on particulate matter (PM) pollution, one of the most relevant and widely used indicators of urban air quality. We provide an overview of published PM monitoring studies in Africa, outline major themes, point out data gaps, and discuss strategies for addressing particulate air pollution in rapidly growing African cities. Our review reveals that, although few studies have reported annual mean levels of coarse and fine particles, collective evidence from short- and long-term air monitoring studies across urban Africa demonstrates that pollution levels often exceed international guidelines. Furthermore, pollution levels may be rising as a result of increased motor vehicle traffic building on already high background concentrations of PM in many locations due to climatic and geographic conditions. Biomass burning and industrial activities, often located in cities, further exacerbate levels of PM. Despite the health risks this situation presents, air quality programs, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, have been stalled or discontinued in recent years. Implementation of systematic PM data collection would enable air pollution-related health impact assessments, the development of strategies to reduce the air pollution health burden, and facilitate urban planning and transportation policy as it relates to air quality and health.


Urban air quality, Environmental health, Particulate matter, PM10, PM2.5, Africa

Geographic Areas


Also Published In

Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health

More About This Work

Academic Units
Sustainable Development
Environmental Health Sciences
Published Here
December 1, 2016