Higher levels of carbon monoxide in Nairobi affecting school children- KEMRI report

Higher levels of carbon monoxide in Nairobi affecting school children- KEMRI report

The Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) on May 19, 2024 issued a warning over the higher levels of carbon monoxide in Nairobi as compared to rural areas.

In a statement, KEMRI noted that the harmful gas causes lung complications and affects mostly school going children. 

“Researchers have published results that show household air pollution from cooking is the main source of Carbon Monoxide (CO) exposure of school going children in Nairobi,” KEMRI noted in a statement.

This was after a research christened Tupumue, a Kiswahili word meaning ‘let us breathe’ that established that Nairobi residents were at higher risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

“The study, christened Tupumue, a Kiswahili word meaning ‘let us breathe’ notes that despite most of the urban homes in the two contrasting study areas- an informal and a more affluent settlement of Nairobi, Kenya, using liquid or gas fuels, concentrations of Carbon Monoxide levels were comparable with those previously reported in rural homes that predominantly use more polluting solid fuels such as charcoal and wood,” stated KEMRI.

The study has been published in the Environmental Pollution scientific journal and is a multidisciplinary study that brings together researchers from Kenya including those from KEMRI, and their United Kingdom counterparts from Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM), Stockholm Environmental Institute, and the University of Stirling among others.

During the research, medical experts were seeking to understand cases of non-communicable lung disease in Kenya.

At the same time, the researchers were analyzing the burden and early life determinants and air pollution concentrations that were measured for 24 hours in nearly 200 homes in Nairobi.

It established that a substantial proportion of homes (nearly 1 in 10) had concentrations that would activate a European-standard Carbon Monoxide alarm, suggesting that there is likely to be a considerable unquantified burden on health from acute carbon monoxide exposure and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Carbon Monoxide is a poisonous gas produced by incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuels burning fuels on poorly ventilated stoves, chronic health effects, particularly in terms of child development, may be occurring because of the carbon monoxide exposures reported here.

The study underscores the urgent need to address household air pollution in urban settings with targeted interventions essential to mitigate carbon monoxide exposure and safeguard public health.

Meanwhile, the study corroborate findings that suggest that ‘cleaner’ fuels do not always generate the desired levels of reduction in household air pollution.

Additionally, the medical experts recommended for the need to better understand carbon monoxide exposures in urban settings and to target interventions, including community education on household air pollution.

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