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Could the "urban mining" of copper and other precious metals at Agbogbloshie be damaging the health of Accra residents?



Last updated: 8 February 2019 11:51 PM (GMT)


By Muntaka Chasant | 882 words | Reading time: 3 min




Agbogbloshie, Accra, Ghana | Muntaka Chasant | ATC MASK


Agbogbloshie, Accra, Ghana/ December 2018 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant

Despite mounting epidemiological evidence1 of the health effects of air pollution on human health, and documented evidence of the long-term benefits of interventions2, many developing countries (mainly in Africa and Asia) are doing very little to improve urban air quality3.


RELATED: Agbogbloshie, Ghana: An E-Waste Hell


Ghana’s burden of disease from outdoor air pollution (PM2.5) has gotten worse in recent years.


Ghana’s annual mean particulate pollution levels (PM2.5) breach limits set by the World Health Organization (WHO) by more than three times (31.1 micrograms per cubic meter [μg/m3] of fine particles of 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter which can penetrate and lodge inside human lungs).


The mortality rate for air pollution in Ghana was about 203 for every 100,000 people in 20164.


The rate was 80 for every 100,000 deaths in 20125, according to figures from the WHO.


The WHO data on air pollution in Ghana did not include measurement for other pollutants such as ozone (O3), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2).


See also: Particulate Matter (PM2.5 and PM10) Basics


 Central Accra, Accra, Ghana | Air Pollution | Air Pollution in Ghana | Muntaka Chasant | ATC MASK |

Accra Central, Accra, Ghana/ September 2018 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant



Air Pollution in Ghana



Air pollution is linked to more than 28,000 premature deaths in Ghana every year6.


Accra (the capital city), which is frequently shrouded in plumes of black smoke from decrepit cars and rubbish fires, is one of the worst polluted urban areas in Ghana.


Air pollutions kills about 7 million people worldwide every year with Africa and Asia worst affected (WHO 2018).


Globally, air pollution is responsible for about 25% of all adult deaths from stroke, 24% from heart disease, 43% from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 29% from lung cancer, WHO estimates show.


Ghana's outdoor dirty air is characterized mainly by dust from unpaved roads, car exhaust, and the burning of residential trash.


Ghana lacks sufficient air quality monitoring networks.


Air quality monitoring7 is limited to only 15 locations, all in the Greater Accra Region. None for the rest of the country's 15 regions.




Air Pollution in Accra



Lack of awareness and reliable data may be contributing to the disease burden attributable to air pollution in Accra.


Visiting the workers of the Jamestown Abattoir on an air pollution awareness campaign in November 2018 in Accra, the slaughterers for instance dismissed all our attempts to discourage their use of scrap tires to singe livestock. 


One of the members argued that their ancestors had used heavy open-fires to singe livestock since the time of Mansa Musa (referring to the 14th century ‘sultan’ of the West African Mali Empire).


And since they have been emitting heavy smoke (in recent times) this way for long now, and it appears they are still alive, it is unlikely smoke from burning scrap tires may be harming them and others as we seemed to suggest.8


Agbogbloshie is about 3 km north of Jamestown.


The “urban mining” of copper and other rare earth metals from e-waste and auto harness wires at the Agbogbloshie scrapyard could also be contributing to Accra’s poor air quality.




Why is Agbogbloshie rated among world's worst polluted places?



“Urban mining” is frequently mentioned as one of the ultimate frontiers in minerals exploitation9 as Earth's native metals gradually deplete.


Agbogbloshie, Accra, Ghana | E-waste | E-waste Dumpsite in Ghana | Toxic | Muntaka Chasant | ATC MASK


Agbogbloshie e-waste dump Accra, Ghana/ December 2018 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant


The “primitive” method of removing plastic sheaths off copper wires and steel wires from radial tires at the Agbogbloshie e-waste dump release highly toxic chemicals into Accra’s air, threatening the health of the city's population living downwind of the smoke. 


There's also the unsafe dismantling of e-waste. This brings up issues of workers coming in direct contact with toxic materials such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium and brominated flame retardants, and the same chemicals also getting into the soil when it rains.


Agbogbloshie | Urban miners | Scrap workers | E-waste workers | Toxic pollution | E-waste | E-waste in Ghana | E-waste Dumpsite | Muntaka Chasant | ATC MASK


"Urban miners" at Agbogbloshie, Accra, Ghana/ December 2018 Photo Credit: Muntaka Chasant


Pure Earth and Green Cross Switzerland (2013)10 rated Agbogbloshie among the world’s top ten most toxic environments along with places like Chernobyl (Ukraine’s 1986 nuclear accident site), Dzerzhinsk (Russia’s cold war-era chemicals weapons manufacturing city), and the Citarum River in Indonesia (often regarded the most polluted river in the world).


Agbogbloshie is also Accra's largest open food market.


Scenes in the short films below attempt to show you (one of the reasons) why Agbogbloshie is likely one of the worst places on earth.


- 90% of the scenes in the films were captured with a cell phone -



Agbogbloshie and Air Pollution in Accra, Accra - A short film



Agbogbloshie - A short film


See also: Air Pollution Killing More People in Ghana


See also: Videos and Photos of Agbogbloshie, Ghana


See also: "Urban mining" and Air Pollution in Accra, Ghana


Please leave your comments below, and let us know what you think!









1. https://erj.ersjournals.com/content/49/1/1600419 (Retrieved October, 2018)
2. https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/2015-07/documents/fullreport_rev_a.pdf (Retrieved October, 2018)
3. https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/02-05-2018-9-out-of-10-people-worldwide-breathe-polluted-air-but-more-countries-are-taking-action (Retrieved October, 2018)
4. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/272596/9789241565585-eng.pdf?ua=1 (Retrieved October, 2018)
5. http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/255336/9789241565486-eng.pdf?sequence=1 (Retrieved October, 2018)
6. http://breathelife2030.org/city-data-page/?city=4385 (Retrieved October, 2018)
7. https://asic.aqrc.ucdavis.edu/sites/g/files/dgvnsk3466/files/inline-files/Emmanuel%20Appoh%20-%20Ghana%20%20International%20Plenary%20Presentation%20at%20%208am%20of%2014%20Sept%202018.pdf (Retrieved October, 2018)

8. https://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/Government-urged-to-consider-air-pollution-as-public-health-problem-703644 (Retrieved October, 2018)
9. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0970389617303294 (Retrieved October, 2018)
10. http://www.worstpolluted.org/docs/TopTenThreats2013.pdf (Retrieved October, 2018)








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Comments (2)

  • Kwame

    It’s worrysome. The authorities must sit up

  • Donna

    The lungs and eyes of these young people are compromising their health. The long term effects should be harnessed by the government. These young men should be gathered and mentored beyond what they are doing to make a living! The produce in the market place will be affected by the chemical exposure!

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