Air quality in the West African sub-region has significantly deteriorated in recent times, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency's (USEPA) Air Quality Index (AQI), available on its official air quality website.
The AQI measures air quality on a scale of 0 to 500, with lower values indicating safer air. Safe air is ranked between 0 and 50 (green), and acceptable air is between 51 and 100 (yellow), although sensitive individuals may be at risk.
Air quality between 101 and 150 (orange) may cause health effects for sensitive people and the general public. At 151-200 (red), the USEPA warns of serious health effects for the general public and increased risk for those sensitive to pollution. Above 200, the risk of health effects increases for everyone, and emergency health warnings are advised at 301 and above.
Prolonged exposure to these hazardous air conditions can lead to harmful health conditions, including heart or lung disease, hospitalization, or even death. Across many West African countries, the AQI currently ranges from 151 to 200 (red), with the USEPA warning that many people may experience serious health effects, including irritation of the eyes, nose and throat; coughing; phlegm; chest tightness; and shortness of breath to lung and heart diseases.
As of February 20th, 2023, harmful air quality has been reported across several West African countries. Specifically, Ghana has an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 187, indicating that the general public may experience health effects and those sensitive to pollution may experience more serious health effects. Ivory Coast has an AQI of 169, and Mali has an AQI of 168, all falling under the "red" category and indicating potential health effects for the general public and those sensitive to pollution. More information on the AQI readings for these countries can be found on the official air quality website, www.airnow.gov, under the US Embassies and Consulates section.
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