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Experts warn of dangers of Air Pollution Levels to unborn babies

FILE PHOTO: Antenatal care. Experts warn that exposure to air pollution by pregnant women is catastrophic to their unborn babies

Kampala, (UG): Experts at Makerere University Lung Institute have warned that exposure to air pollution by pregnant women is catastrophic to their unborn babies.

Speaking on Friday in an interview just after the institute launched results of a study that found very high levels of air pollution in Kampala and Jinja cities, Dr Rebecca Nantanda a researcher said exposure to toxic air leads to producing babies of low birth weight which can cause lifelong health harm to those affected.

She says for unborn babies toxic air doesn’t only affect the lungs but their brain and the heart.

Dr Gabriel Okello, a researcher at the University of Cambridge who collaborated with researchers at the Lung Institute to conduct this four yearlong study says they assessed hospital data to determine the relationship between disease and air quality and found that in instances where poor air quality levels were high, also hospital visits with respiratory disease complaints were high.

According to him, findings show that in Kampala and Jinja, the quality of air varies at different times of the day with most episodes of bad air happening during times of high traffic flow.

He is worried that apart from causing known problems such as effects on the lungs and heart, they recently found a relationship between bad air and mental illness.

However, while poor quality of air has been a concern of the urban areas where there is high traffic flow and overcrowding experts say the challenge could be affecting more Ugandans than are being estimated.

For instance, Jennifer Kutesakwe who is in charge of Air Quality at the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) said at the meeting that while analyzing data, they recently found Kabale to be having poor air quality despite largely being green.

Now, experts recommend increased awareness about the dangers of air pollution to curb especially household pollution.

Simple things like avoiding cooking using charcoal stoves indoors and burning of rubbish can help curb pollution at the household level.

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