Government is worried about alarmingly high levels of air pollution in these South African towns

The Department of Environmental Affairs has published a new paper aimed at addressing high levels of air pollution. Air pollution monitoring data has shown that there are some geographic areas within the country where ambient air quality standards are being exceeded, and this is posing a threat to human health and the environment in those areas, the department said. What has become clear is that household utilisation of dirty fuels is one of the major contributors to the observed exceedances, particularly in residential areas, it said.

“The problem of residential air pollution is more often than not, associated with dense low-income settlements. “Air pollution in dense low-income settlements in South Africa poses numerous challenges. “These challenges are interrelated and intertwined with the conditions of living making clean air quality in dense low-income settlements almost impossible to achieve when the problem is addressed in isolation.”

To date, three priority areas have been declared in South Africa.

The first priority area, the Vaal Triangle Airshed Priority Area (VTAPA) which covers parts of Gauteng and Free State provinces, was declared in 2006.

This was followed by the declaration of the Highveld Priority Area (HPA) which covers parts of Mpumalanga and Gauteng provinces, in 2007.

For these two priority areas, substantial evidence that ambient air quality standards are being exceeded as a result of activities that are causing air pollution in the area, the department said.

The Waterberg-Bojanala Priority Area (WBPA) was the third to be declared in 2012 and it encompasses parts of Limpopo and the Northwest.


According to the Department of Environmental Affairs, emissions from domestic fuel burning has consequences that make them worse than their industrial counterparts and all other sources. Unlike industrial emissions that are emitted higher up in the atmospheres through the stack, household emissions occur within the breathing zone of a human being, which exposes people to immediate and therefore the highest concentration of pollutants, with more severe health impacts, the department said. It also noted that household pollution is experienced both indoors and outdoors. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), indoor smoke can be 100 times higher than acceptable levels for fine particles. Exposure is particularly high among women and young children, who spend the most time in houses or near emission sources, it said.

This article originally appeared at Business Tech


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